VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE -- The ability to understand and appreciate the mission of Air Force Equal Opportunity is vital to the continued success of the Air Force and protecting our most excellent resource - Airmen.
According to AF.mil, the mission EO strives to promote is “an environment free from personal, social or institutional barriers that could prevent Air Force members from rising to their highest potential.”
But what does that mean?
For Airmen considering retraining into EO, there is an excellent opportunity to understand what the EO team does. The Air Force Equal Opportunity Shadow Program consists of a 15-duty-day observation period that immerses candidates into the daily operations of an EO specialist. The program focuses on specific tasks which include a variety of different speeches, as well as writing assignments that recreate the experiences and duties EO Specialists perform.
For me, 30th Security Forces Squadron flight chief and EO retrainee candidate, it was a chance to explore a whole new side of human relations.
In my current position, I frequently talk to and support Airmen through community policing, but I feel limited in that I am a mandatory reporter. With EO, I can dive deeper, on a much more personal level, and provide guidance and mentorship on how to handle issues at the lowest level.
I worked with the local EO office at Vandenberg and was expertly guided by Vanneca Phelps, the 30th Space Wing EO director, and her team, Tech. Sgt. Kenneth Richmond, NCOIC of EO, and EO Specialist Staff Sgt. Kimberly Villaronga over three weeks. During that time, I presented several speeches, including why I want to join EO, wrote two papers and a news article about special observances. I also attended several EO orientation briefings and had the chance to share in the discussions.
Phelps, EO Director/Alternative Dispute Resolution program manager, runs a tight ship. For her, EO is vital to the Air Force because there is a zero tolerance policy for discrimination. She wears many hats and promotes civil obedience above all.
“It all starts with communication,” said Phelps. “Communication is an exchange, and I think once you sit down at the table and start the conversation, the dialogue, then the problem kind of resolves itself, if there was one there at all.”
Richmond explained that EO is about giving power back to flight chiefs and commanders. Education is a huge part of what EO does and helps Airmen break down their personal biases and brings awareness to prejudices and stereotypes.
“Diversity is key to what makes us the strongest Air Force in the world,” said Richmond.
Villaronga added that EO is an educating agency and provides feedback and tools to commanders through the DEOMI Organizational Climate Survey (DEOCS), commanders calls, key personnel briefs, and “out-and-abouts.” Villaronga strongly advocates for the EO shadow program because it gives Airmen the chance to see what an EO Specialist does.
“You learn how to talk about certain issues that most people don’t feel comfortable talking about,” said Villaronga. “ It’s an eye opener for what the agency does and what it offers to the installation.”
This experience was an eye opener for me, and I am now an EO ambassador.
I believe firmly in our need to empower Airmen through education and provide a clear message on what it means to work in an environment of equity, dignity, and respect. I have a passion for giving a voice to those who feel voiceless, and I want to educate and empower anyone to come forward who has been discriminated against or felt powerless. Through this program, I’ve learned that Equal Opportunity truly is for everyone.
For more information regarding the EO shadow program, you can contact the EO office at (805) 606-8780 or (805)-606-0370.