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LRAFB holds black leadership panel

Panelists speak at a black leadership panel

Members of a black leadership panel discuss the racial disparity review at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, March 26, 2021. The panel consisted of six leadership members— two officers, three enlisted and one civilian (retired Chief Master Sergeant). (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mariam K. Springs)

A panelist speaks at the black leadership panel

Retired Chief Master Sgt. Margarita Overton, former 19th Airlift Wing command chief, speaks at a black leadership panel at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, March 26, 2021. LRAFB held a black leadership panel as an effort to increase discussions on diversity and inclusion, and to discuss the Independent Racial Disparity Review report released in December 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mariam K. Springs)

Panelists speak at a black leadership panel

U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Fredrick Beacham, 314th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander support staff section chief, speaks during a black leadership panel at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, March 26, 2021. The panel consisted of six leadership members—two officers, three enlisted and one civilian (retired Chief Master Sergeant). Members were asked 10 questions on different elements of an issue, as well as questions asked by the audience. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mariam K. Springs)

Panelists pose for a group photo

Members of a black leadership panel pose for a photo at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, March 26, 2021. LRAFB held a black leadership panel as an effort to increase discussions on diversity and inclusion, and to discuss the Independent Racial Disparity Review report released in December 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mariam K. Springs)

A panelist provides opening remarks

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Taylesha McGee, 314th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron NCO in charge of scheduling, gives opening remarks during a black leadership panel at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, March 26, 2021. LRAFB held a black leadership panel as an effort to increase discussions on diversity and inclusion, and to discuss the Independent Racial Disparity Review report released in December 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mariam K. Springs)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- In an effort to increase discussions on diversity and inclusion, Little Rock Air Force Base held a black leadership panel March 26. One key issue that was discussed during the panel was the Independent Racial Disparity Review report released in December 2020.

The panel consisted of six leadership members—two officers, three enlisted and one civilian (retired Chief Master Sergeant). The panelists were asked 10 questions on various topics, as well as questions asked by members of the audience.

“We wanted it to be a discussion on everyone’s thoughts, feelings and their experiences,” said Staff Sgt. Taylesha McGee, 314th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron NCO in charge of scheduling, who served as the panel moderator. “When planning this event I wanted to make sure the Independent Racial Disparity Review report was actually discussed further—what stuck out to me was the harsher punishments against black Airmen.”

According to the Independent Racial Disparity Review released in 2020, enlisted black service members were 72% more likely than enlisted white service members to receive Uniform Code of Military Justice, Article 15, commanding officer’s non-judicial punishment, and 57% more likely than white service members to face courts-martial.

During the discussion, the panel members emphasized the need for findings from this data to be used to take action and address the issue.

The Independent Racial Disparity Review also reported black service members are underrepresented in promotions to E5-E7 and O4-O6. Additionally, black officers are underrepresented in Definitely Promote allocations for O5 and O6. The disparity review also showed black, permanent, full-time civilians are underrepresented in GS-13 through Senior Executive Service grades.

“When I was previously enlisted, I didn’t see a lot of minorities in leadership positions, so when I did encounter those individuals it gave me something to strive for,” said 2nd Lt. Fredrick Beacham, 314th AMXS commander’s support staff section chief. “It gave me a feeling of that position being attainable because that person looks like me, they talk like me, dresses like me, etc. It also gave me the confidence I needed to know I could pursue those goals and I could achieve them. Being an officer now, I hope it does the same for others.”

McGee reinforced the significance to her and other Airmen to see and hear from minorities in leadership positions, calling the panel “powerful, humbling and emotional.”

“It’s important for me as a young black NCO to look around and see other black people in a position of power,” McGee said. “When I walk into a room or go to a meeting, it’s very rare for me to not be the only black person in the room. It validates my feelings knowing I’m not the only one that has felt that way. Ignorance is bliss, and I think all races should be a part of this discussion because we can all learn more about each other.”

Panel members also talked about the importance of non-minority leaders to create an inclusive environment where individuals have trust and are not hindered by prejudicial barriers, stereotypes, or restrictions.

“I think it’s very important that we continue to have these discussions about race and other issues that may make individuals uncomfortable,” Beacham said. “It educates individuals about what we go through, whether it be in the military or in civilian clothes. It can also better equip other individuals that are not necessarily experiencing those things with the knowledge and necessary tools to help their Airmen out whether it’s a supervisor or a coworker.”

Those interested in reading the 2020 Independent Racial Disparity Review report can find it here:

https://www.af.mil/Portals/1/documents/ig/IRDR.pdf

Additionally, resources on diversity and inclusion can be found here:

https://www.af.mil/Portals/1/documents/diversity/DAF_D-I_Resource_List.pdf?ver=2020-07-17-141700-753&timestamp=1595009853849