MEO chief pledges open door policy at wing

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. LaVonne Johnson
  • 459th Air Refueling Wing Military Equal Opportunity Office
"A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has," cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead said. 

My vision is that the 459th Air Refueling Wing functions and operates as a small group of thoughtful people intending to change the world for the better. 

On February 5, 2007, I became the new chief of the Military Equal Opportunity office. The wing commander entrusted me with this enormous responsibility of which I am honored and humbled. 

My pledge and job is to serve you by promoting an environment free from unlawful discrimination and sexual harassment. Perhaps the day will come when this job is no longer needed -- that truly will be a day of jubilee. 

So what day is here? Let me emphasize that the day of acceptance and appreciation of diversity is here. The military, in general, has progressed toward a climate of equal opportunity for all. Discrimination based on race, color, national origin, gender and religion is no longer the accepted practice. Top officials at the Department of Defense, Air Force and the 459th ARW have policies that outline zero tolerance. 

The laws, practices and written polices have changed for the better in the interest of promoting equality. However, remnants of inequality based on race, color, national origin, gender and religion still exist. 

So what can we do about this? Each of us has a responsibility to make sure unlawful discrimination doesn't occur so that we can strive to meet individual goals based on personal merit and fitness. 

Here are three things to keep in mind:
First, we must evaluate ourselves to make sure our actions and words are free from unlawful intent. Be aware of experiences and upbringing that could interfere with fair and just practices. Check yourself. 

We must also check others. If we see behavior or hear words that promote discrimination or sexual harassment, then confront the situation before a blow-up. Be the peacemaker, not the partaker. 

Finally, if you encounter unlawful behavior and feel that you can't resolve it, seek help. Use your chain of command first only if you feel comfortable. If you don't feel comfortable, come to my office. MEO is here for you. 

My office will help you and help others so that each of us can focus on the Air Force mission. We will use all of our tools, which include good judgment and discernment, to get to the root of the problem. We can handle a matter informally or formally. 

Informally means we can help facilitate a resolution with the parties involved. Formally means we investigate the matter by interviewing the parties involved, interviewing witnesses, reviewing pertinent documentation, and involving the legal office. 

MEO makes a determination and the alleged offender's commander decides the disciplinary and corrective actions. The complainant can opt for the informal process and he or she isn't satisfied with the results, that person can proceed with the formal process. 

In summary, remember that self-inspection, team inspection, chain of command, and MEO are for each person to use as needed. Let each of us contribute to an environment free from unlawful discrimination and sexual harassment. 

Author Mark Twain described kindness as "the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see." 

For more information about the MEO program, call us at 240-857-6873.