DAF Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: The HEAT is on

  • Published
  • By Maj. Gilberto S. Perez
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

The Department of the Air Force’s strength has always resided in our Airmen — servant heart, creative mind, and fighting spirit. It is the diverse team from the very fabric of our nation that gives the Department of the Air Force its competitive advantage to defend the Constitution of the United States of America across the joint all-domain battlespace. The American public expects and the profession of arms requires a culture of dignity and respect to unleash the full potential of the civilian and military workforce.

The DAF Barrier Analysis Working Groups were established in 2008 to address active or potential barriers to equal employment opportunities across the total force. This governing body is a conduit to maximize the team’s diverse talents and create an inclusive culture regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, orientation, religion or disabilities. 

The Hispanic community has a valiant history of serving in every major conflict in American history and continues to be a source of military strength. As of 2020, 15.6% of the 329,839 active-duty Air Force members are of Hispanic or Latino descent. Research data revealed Hispanics are among the fastest growing populations in the United States and make up half the population growth since 2010. It is critically important for the DAF to foster an environment where all members feel valued and able to maximize their full potential. That type of environment will enable Hispanics members to leverage their talents to support our Air and Space Forces.

The Hispanic Empowerment and Advancement Team, a specialized DAFBAWG, was chartered to review and analyze guidelines, programs, data and other information for barriers to employment, advancement, and retention of Hispanic employees and applicants, and military members. Due to the strategic imperative, Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall selected Lt. Gen. Marc H. Sasseville, vice chief of the National Guard Bureau, and Stephen R. Herrera, the principal deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for Financial Management and Comptroller, to be the senior-level champions of the HEAT. With strong and proud Hispanic roots, these Air Force senior leaders continue to pave the path for future generations of leaders.  

Sasseville shared why championing the HEAT efforts is important to him by stating, “I’ve personally witnessed our phenomenal teams in action throughout my Air Force career, which are as diverse as the nation we serve and defend. The HEAT is a voice for the Hispanic Airmen and Guardians. We can make tremendous strides and a powerful impact by having access to rooms where Department of the Air Force-level policies are made.”  

Moreover, the HEAT is a total force initiative and aligns with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr.’s Action Orders to Accelerate Change or Lose. Sasseville echoed these sentiments by stating, “To reach our full potential, we as an Air Force, Space Force and Reserve Component, must continuously work to identify and remove barriers to the contributions of every individual. Equal opportunity for school selection, assignments, and command opportunities will ensure that Airmen and Guardians are prepared for promotion opportunities when they arise. The HEAT fills a critical role by identifying the root causes of existing barriers and builds plans and develops strategies to remove them. As we continue to remove barriers, we will achieve equal access which is what we’re striving for. This will provide opportunities for proud Hispanics to serve and prevent us from losing those currently in the Air Force, Space Force and Reserve Component.”

Since the 1948 abolishment of racial segregation in the military, the Department of Defense has led the nation in diversity advocacy and removing barriers for underrepresented service members. Although there is still room for improvement, the DAF continues to take a deliberate approach in building a more diverse and inclusive culture. Herrera reaffirmed this commitment by stating, “The objective of the HEAT is to increase Department of the Air Force opportunities for the Hispanic community by way of access and development. The HEAT is trying to achieve this objective by assessing programs, practices, data and other information for barriers to employment, advancement, and retention of Hispanic civilian and military members. Success would be representation of Hispanic members at all grades and ranks that is representative of the demographics of the United States. To achieve this success, we need to address recruitment, retention, development and any obstacles or barriers to the advancement of Hispanic members.”  

In 2020, the HEAT was successful in creating a more inclusive culture, respectful of the Hispanic heritage and service member’s identity, by gaining approval to include accent marks and hyphens on the uniform name tapes.  

In conjunction with Hispanic Heritage Month, HEAT is hosting virtual events, which can be found here.

Editor’s Note: The HEAT is comprised of total force volunteers across the Air and Space Force, who want to be the change they want to see in the Department of the Air Force. If interested in being a catalyst for positive change for the Department of the Air Force Hispanic community, please reach out through the HEAT Facebook page.