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By Mr. Robert E. Roehrich, NDNG Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Program Manager
Greetings to those who wear the uniform, past and present, and to those who serve and have served in a civilian capacity for our organization, all family members, and all the extended family and friends of the N.D. National Guard. So far, 2020 has been a roller coaster ride that will be branded into our memories as a defining period of time. Soon we will ask each other questions like where you were “when the Twin Towers fell on 911”, or “the assassination of President Kennedy?” from COVID-19, completely revolutionizing how we do business in the NDNG. From civil unrest and racial tensions within our country, we have been challenged to re-evaluate the way we operate our day-to-day business. We also took a deep look at our internal messaging and inclusion strategies. Though we’d like to think that we are flawless in many areas, it is simply impossible to be perfect all the time. However, we are always looking for opportunities to improve our organization for those we serve.
I wanted to inform our extended N.D. National Guard Family about the progress made by the N.D. National Guard in the areas of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (ED&I) during the past year. To begin with, our executive leadership team saw a need for the realignment of our ED&I committee to ensure it could regain the momentum needed to operate effectively in today’s workplace.
In 2019, the old ED&I committee proposed to realign to an executive committee chaired by the N.D. National Guard’s deputy adjutant general. Later a working group for each component, the N.D. Army Guard and Air National Guard, was established. These working groups would provide better representation of our working staff at all levels within our agency for most of Fiscal Year 2020. This change helped our agency rebrand our ED&I messaging strategies with a grassroots approach of embracing and recognizing the best practices. This also allowed us to find barriers in our organization that may negatively impact a demographic group.
Recently our agency was afforded the opportunity to hold various forms of federal observances to help employees increase their cultural competency while learning about people of different backgrounds. We also had opportunities to celebrate our own unique attributes, to include a chance to showcase our own culture, heritage, different abilities, religious backgrounds, regional heritage and lifestyle.
Be sure to check your unconscious bias at the door:
I believe education is our most powerful tool in combating negative “Unconscious Bias” – an inherent or learned stereotype about people that everyone forms without realizing it. These biases can also be social stereotypes about an individual, group or institution. They can be negative or non-negative.
So what actually forms in your mind when you hear diversity and inclusion? There is a common misconception (bias) that diversity is only related to race, color or gender. For example, one way diversity may be achieved is to assemble group of people who hail from different backgrounds, hold dissimilar values, observe various religions, and are raised in different cultures. These are just a few of the many factors that make us different from one another. The goal of the ED&I program is to create an environment where anyone, regardless of differences, can thrive and excel to the best of their abilities in the job they were hired to do. Our organization is deeply committed to ED&I practices.
Everyone who works for the NDNG has opportunities to attend professional development, pursue career advancement, continue advanced education, utilize an individualized development plan, attend training, use mentor/mentee relationships, etc. Our goal is to help employees recognize these opportunities exist.
Communication from the individual with his/her supervisor is a crucial step in recognizing opportunities. Our human capital is our most vital resource. Without them we could not accomplish our daily tasks and complete our missions at the high-level of success enjoyed by our organization since its inception. Our personnel have been critical in our success to support our communities and state during this historic response to the COVID pandemic.
Whether you are civilian, Army, or Air (current, former, or even family members) – we thank you for all of your sacrifices this year throughout these unique times in our country and we thank you in advance for your support in the future. Diversity and Inclusion are about giving value to every human being, no matter what our differences might be.