86th AW, 435th AGOW communicate through EO

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Larissa Greatwood
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The 86th Airlift Wing Equal Opportunity office conducted an out-and-about with 435th Air Ground Operations Wing Airmen to ensure Airmen are being treated fairly, are communicating effectively and are satisfied with their workplaces.

The Airmen had the opportunity to speak with Tech. Sgt. Shajita Rios, 86th AW EO advisor, about the positives aspects of their workplace as well as areas needing improvement.

"When we come into a unit, it gives those Airmen the opportunity to know who's in their equal opportunity organization but also allows them to talk to us about anything they want to, whether it's things they'd like to see improved or the positive things," Rios said. "When we talk to them, it's completely anonymous. Once we've gathered information from anyone who wants to speak with us, we take that information and channel it to the commander, again, without using any names. It's a good way for them to be heard and see the changes made without it impacting them individually."

The 435th AGOW consists of more than 1,400 personnel divided into three groups and nine squadrons with 11 geographically separated units located across eight sites. Because the wing is so versatile, Bryan Osborne, 86th AW EO director and 86th AW alternative dispute resolution manager, said it's important to ensure they're as cohesive as possible.

"Because they have such a far-reaching mission, [deploy] and are an organization with a lot of people with different skill sets, it's important for the commander to know what the human relations climate is," he said. "How people relate and treat each other is a huge aspect of mission accomplishment.

"The equal opportunity program is a force multiplier," Osborne continued. "If people have their minds on unlawful discrimination or an unprofessional work environment, how can a commander expect those individuals to be focused on the mission? Our out-and-about program is a great way for a trained EO specialist to visit a unit over a couple of days and provide a real-time snapshot of the human relations climate."

Osborne said the EO visit may show that people are under a lot of stress and strain and under different mission requirements than the commander believed.

"I recently heard the 86th AW commander [Brig. Gen. Jon T. Thomas] say that EO and other helping agencies are so important because sometimes people need someone to talk to, and they need to be heard," Osborne said. "The EO office doesn't just process complaints. We try to get people the assistance they need even if they don't choose to file an EO complaint. If people are happy and satisfied and can focus their efforts on the mission, everybody wins - the tax payers, wingmen and the people who are recipients of our services. Everyone's satisfied because the mission is getting done."

Despite being a many-faceted wing, Rios said her feedback from the Airmen continues to improve.

"When we get to the heart of a lot of the issues, some are personality conflicts," she said. "Because the 435th AGOW is so versatile, I could see that being common because everyone is coming from separate units. I believe they're doing a great job because they all began in very different places and have made a lot of changes. I think they definitely understand the importance of cohesiveness and being a team."

When it comes to EO visiting units, Rios said the overall goal is to ensure everyone benefits from the experience.

"I think there's a stigma when people know equal opportunity is coming around," Rios said. "We're here to make sure everything is as fair as possible and to give every Airman a voice. Most people love their units but may think it could be better with some changes, and I think that's so important at this time because we're [downsizing] and don't have the same resources we used to. It's already difficult; no one needs the added stress of discrimination or harassment."

Through the 86th EO office, Airmen have the opportunity to voice their concerns and suggestions for the betterment of their unit. With a positive and effective work environment, Airmen can concentrate on the mission.