Army Continues Efforts for Diversity, Inclusion

Army Continues Efforts for Diversity, Inclusion

Photo by: U.S. Army/Sgt. James Harvey

The Army is continuing its push for diversity and inclusion in both its uniformed and civilian ranks, senior leaders said in a contemporary military forum during AUSA Now, the virtual annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army.

“The events of this past year have caused a reckoning within the Army. We must understand the barriers our service members endure and create conditions allowing every person to realize their potential,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said. Leaders at all levels must “listen, learn and act” to enable the Army to evolve and continue safeguarding the nation.

During the forum, titled “Diversity and Inclusion: The Time is Now,” McCarthy and other leaders stressed the need for a shift in Army culture toward identifying barriers and building diverse, cohesive teams that value human dignity.

At last year’s AUSA annual meeting, a prominent topic was the Army People Strategy, which had just been signed by the Army secretary and Army chief of staff. That strategy hinges on culture, said E. Casey Wardynski, assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs.

“This summer, we completed work on our implementation plans for military and civilian personnel, which talk in detail about specific things we do to build strong, diverse teams across the Army,” Wardynski said. He added that in the officer corps alone, there are 20 different initiatives to build diversity in mid-grade and senior ranks.

“Anyone in the Army should be able to aspire to any role that their talents allow them to fulfill,” Wardynski said.

In the past, the Army has always talked about diversity in a very one-dimensional way, and shifting to a values-based construct will require time and effort, said Anselm Beach, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for equity and inclusion. 

The service has begun an Armywide “listening campaign” for leaders to engage with soldiers and civilians to understand how current events are impacting them and the readiness of the force, Beach said. 

“Then, we take those learned themes back and analyze them at a macro level to see what has to be done policy-wise and at the local installation level to ensure all personnel have the tools they need to maintain readiness,” he said.

Sessions have already been completed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Redstone Arsenal in Alabama and in the national capital region, Beach said, adding that there is a full schedule into fiscal year 2022 to engage across the force. “The Army’s work on diversity, equity and inclusion will continue,” he said.

Cultural development needs to be built in as a key part of professional military education, said Gen. Paul Funk, commander of Army Training and Doctrine Command. In the coming months, TRADOC is seeking to implement cultural training in PME, such as recognizing potential discrimination, demonstrating empathy, understanding soldiers’ needs and becoming socially aware.

This training should be “ interactive discussions, not just PowerPoint slides,” Funk said.

The command has also started a series of leader development forums and webinars to “reconnect with the Army as a profession,” he said. Recently, Funk and TRADOC Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Hendrex kicked off a series of webinars on diversity and inclusion. It will continue next week with retired Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick and focus on talent management in the context of diversity.

“The Army is representative of the nation because it is built from every corner of the nation,” McCarthy said. “Our diversity is a strength and is paramount in maintaining the trust of the American people.”