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NEWS | Oct. 4, 2022

Rated Diversity Improvement program leaders collaborate to recruit, retain diverse Airmen

By Master Sgt. Holly Patterson Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs

The Rated Diversity Improvement (RDI) team for Air Education and Training Command held an introduction forum and working group for RDI program leaders at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Sept. 20-22, 2022.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Michael Trott, AETC’s RDI program military branch lead, said the forum brought together key players within the program to ensure familiarization, collaboration and synchronization across the RDI enterprise and portfolio.

"We felt the need for this conference since the RDI staff are all relatively new to the team and desired a face-to-face forum to sync and collaborate with RDI’s primary program partners," Trott said. "This was a way to host an introduction forum for the new RDI team and major RDI program partners, but also establish program data metrics and reporting standards and provide an outlook for the way ahead." 

RDI efforts began in 2018 under the direction of the Aircrew Task Force, with AETC taking the lead for Air Force RDI initiatives in spring 2020.

Rated career fields in the Air Force include pilots, air battle managers and combat systems officers. The RDI strategy is the Air Force’s flight plan to strengthen diversity within rated career fields through three overarching goals:

  • Attract and recruit the best talent from diverse backgrounds to cultivate a high-performing and innovative Air Force reflective of the best of our nation.
  • Develop and retain the Air Force’s best-rated aircrew by harnessing diversity as a force multiplier and fostering a culture of inclusion.
  • Optimize diversity advancement efforts by leveraging data-driven approaches.

U.S. Air Force Col. Matthew Leard, chief of staff at AETC headquarters, said the results of the work going into the program might not be immediately identifiable and could take some time for the efforts to pay off, but it’s important to keep pushing forward.

“I’m excited to have the team here together and to get after it,” Leard said. “Our focus is on what’s been successful and what hasn’t been successful, and why. We are here to make changes, go after hurdles, and figure out what’s missing.”

Kent Williams, RDI Branch Chief, said this planning conference allows key players in the program to establish organizational roles and responsibilities, sync battle rhythms and plan a strategic way forward.

Williams further said with all the successes being reported from individual programs, the focus now needs to shift to the overall RDI strategy by defining success and how to evaluate data.

“We have been dormant on activity from a program standpoint,” Williams said. “As key players, you have been working hard running your programs and doing great work. But right now, there is no ‘big board’ for everything that is RDI out there, so we’re going to tackle getting everyone synched on the battle rhythm and guidance so we can work together as a whole more effectively.”

Synching individual programs together into a more cohesive model was just one focus of the RDI working group. U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kelly McNerney, Air Force Recruiting Service’s director of operations for Det. 1, emphasized the need to restore the luster in aviation and tap into those areas and communities that have not been reached.

“Right now, we are making events happen, but there’s no concrete, streamlined way of analyzing statistical data to prove success or failure in the long run,” McNerney said. “We’re here to help make team as effective and efficient in the future as possible. We hope to do that by highlighting ‘lessons learned’ that we can work on together.”

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jay Park, commander of Air Force Recruiting Service, Detachment 1, shares McNerney’s sentiment. He says that while the numbers show diversity has increased, it’s important not to lose sight of the true intent.

“We’re not just increasing diversity numbers just for the sake of diversity numbers,” Park said. “We are working to find diverse talent and retain them. Right now, we’re losing people.”

Park also emphasized the retention portion of the program: keeping diverse talent within the ranks.

“Let’s say we get these diverse Airmen in the front door,” Park said. “How do we retain them, ideally at the same rate we’re retaining other Airmen? That’s the piece that needs more focus.”

Trott said he believes the conference exceeded expectations. 

“One of the key takeaways from the event was the value and effectiveness of in-person collaboration,” Trott said. "While COVID-19 has sparked many innovations in how work can be accomplished, the full value of in-person interaction, discussion, and collaboration cannot be replaced by virtual meetings when looking to develop program strategy. These takeaways from the conference will not only improve the RDI portfolio, but they will ultimately contribute to better achieving the strategic goals and outcomes of the Rated Diversity Improvement program altogether."