Reflecting on Black History Month: Kirtland AFB Highlights

  • Published
  • By Allen Winston
  • 377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Black History Month, also known as African-American History Month in the United States where it originated. It has received official recognition from governments in the United States and Canada, and more recently has been observed in Ireland and the United Kingdom. It began as a way of remembering the history making people and events in the history of the African diaspora. It is celebrated in February in the United States and Canada, while in Ireland and the United Kingdom it is observed in October.

During the month of remembrance at Kirtland, the Black History Month Committee kicked off the with a Racial Disparity Review Panel held in the 377TH Wing Presentation Center. The opening Remarks were given by Col. Amy Rivera, 377th Security Forces Group commander.  Rivera opened with the discussion and Q/A on The Department of Defense Internal Review Team on Racial Disparities in the Investigative and Military Justice Systems.

Rivera, opened by stating “that everyone needs to be open and honest about why events like this need to happen. Racial disparities have excited and continue to exist in our military.” Rivera went on to say “Disparities degrade trust, unit cohesion, perceptions of fairness, and pose a threat of readiness and sustainment of the force. The military has come a long way and will continue to evolve for the better in this regard.” Rivera continued on to paraphrase from the Internal Review Team report stating  that “people are the Department of Defense most valuable resource and any investment in people is the best investment that our military can make.”

The IRT report states “The Services understand the importance of attracting and maintaining a diverse force. Diversity of thought, experience, and perspectives is critical to innovation and to maintaining DoD’s competitive advantage. To recruit and retain a diverse, all-volunteer force, the DoD must be a model employer while also establishing safe and secure communities where Service members and their families can flourish. We must never forget that it is not our technology or sophisticated weapon systems that make our military the best and most powerful in the world. Rather, our greatest strength lies in our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Guardians. An investment in our people is the very best investment in readiness our military can make.

The panel members continued the conversation with the audience and each other pulling from the IRT report on education and training and real world examples of how each of them have had and are working with airmen and members on a daily bases.  Some of the examples of the education and training was using Computer Based Training.  While the panel’s conversation covered many aspects of how conscious and unconscious bias may or may not be affected or changed by a CBT’s this lead to the question of other ways of education and training from audience.  Several other examples that were discussed personality test like the MyColor personality test, role play of scenarios to help individuals see and understand conscious and unconscious bias, and joining, getting involved with other ethnic groups online and in-person. 

The panel conversation acknowledged that the Military services have come a very long way and is continuing to educate, learn and grow to reduce the Racial disparity in the services.

The Black History Month conversation continued with a Black History Month Luncheon held on Feb. 28, 2024, at the Thunder Bird dining hall. 

Special guest speaker, Joseph Oder, Executive Director Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, shared his experience as a lifelong New Mexican.  Oder said, “we talk about the value of diversity, but what we really want is people that look different that act exactly just like we expect them to act.”

Oder has seen this a lot over the years. Oder acknowledge that it is diversity “the different way of seeing, different way of thinking, different way of problem solving is what helps us to be strong.”

Oder strong message is to encourage people to be who they really are. Not just fit a mold.

As Black History Month draws to a close at Kirtland Air Force Base, the events and discussions held throughout February have underscored the importance of acknowledging our shared history, addressing racial disparities, and embracing diversity within the ranks.

As we look to the future, let us continue to foster an environment of inclusion, where individuals are encouraged to be their authentic selves, and where diversity of thought and experience is celebrated as a strength.