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Inclusion means believing in yourself and each other

  • Published
  • By Command Chief Master Sergeant Shelina Frey
  • Command Chief Master Sergeant of Air Mobility Command
The strength of the Air Force is our Airmen; and they come from diverse experiences and backgrounds across our great nation. Within AMC, we value this diversity and consider it essential to attracting and developing the best minds and talents to accomplish the complex mission we take on every day around the world.

Inclusion is just as critical as diversity.  It fosters a culture of caring that recognizes that everyone matters and is a valued part of our team.  From an organizational perspective, inclusion generates flexibility and adaptation. 

Sometimes people see me and say, "Hey, you're the first African American female chief I've seen." 

I usually ask them, "What does that mean to you?"

Often they think a few seconds, and say, "Nothing; you're a great Airman." 

It means the world to me that they both see that I'm an African American female and appreciate me as an Airman.  I love being an Airman!  I take who I am and what I represent very seriously.  Of course, there is only so much you can do to impact others' perceptions. 

When I first arrived as AMC's command chief, there was a gentleman who was aghast at the Air Force's inclusion of me as a senior leader.  He made it apparent on the chief's official Facebook site that he didn't think much of a "negro" being in my position. 

I felt bad for him; but I realize his attitude is a reflection of his life experiences. My heart breaks for people who can't see beyond skin color and fail to focus instead on the character of a person. 

When it comes to diversity and inclusion, we still have a way to go -- yes.  But I'm thankful it's not where it used to be.  Biases divide us and breed conflict.  People have lost their lives so you and I could serve this great nation regardless of skin color, gender, or our differences.  

As we wrap up African American History Month and begin Women's History Month, this time of year often makes me think about my mom.  I think about her character; a strong woman who carried herself with pride and respect for others.  She taught me to love myself, and that you should never let yourself be defined by what people call you or feel about you.

How we feel about ourselves is foundational to how we behave.  It impacts how we make others feel.  It's not our background, not what we have or don't have.  It's about believing in yourself.  I love our Airmen for what they bring to our Air Force and who they believe they are!

We're so fortunate today that we can live in a society where so many people truly care about each other and strive to overlook and even embrace our differences.  I often think of how blessed I am to be in America, to serve in the greatest Air Force as the command chief master sergeant of a multifaceted global organization. 

There's a place in this Air Force for all of us, and our differences make us stronger. Diversity and inclusion make our organization more effective in meeting the Rapid Global Mission of our command.  It's what makes us an Air Force family. We all bring something unique to the table.  Everybody matters. 
I am proud to be an American Airman, and I'm proud to be a part of this team!