Department of Military Affairs: Serving Those Who Serve: Service Member Support Division Part 3 – Office of Diversity and Inclusion
The Wisconsin National Guard strives to foster an environment where the individuals who make up the organization feel valued for who they are and their contributions.
The strength of the National Guard is the people. The soldiers, airmen and civilians, as well as the families and employers who support the National Guard, represent all races, religions, ethnicities, genders and socioeconomic backgrounds. That’s why the National Guard is committed to building a safe and inclusive culture to represent our nation’s diversity, ensure fairness for every current and potential member of the National Guard, build trust, and achieve overall readiness and the accomplishment of the mission.
As service members complete their initial training alongside their peers, they learn the values of their service component and are trained to be consistent in all that they do. While the fundamental purpose of training is to provide service members with the skills they need to accomplish their missions, protect life and liberty, and work as a team, it is not intended to overlook who each service member is as a than individual.
“The problem I see here is that a lot of service members are trying to act like people they’re not,” said Liam Walsh, the diversity equity and inclusion technician. “I believe letting people live as they really are makes them much more productive and happier because they don’t have to ‘minimize’ or hide who they are and where they come from.”
The Wisconsin Office of Diversity and Inclusion, part of a National Guard-wide initiative, aims to address inequitable behavior and educate people about the benefits of diversity.
“I am committed to becoming more culturally humble and meeting the needs of service members in Wisconsin,” said Katie Bermudez, program manager for the office of diversity and inclusion. “A commitment to understanding the stories that have tried to tear us all apart. The commitment goes beyond checking boxes and promoting preparedness.
The Diversity and Inclusion Office focuses on education and training, cultural awareness, and building internal and external partnerships.
Bermudez has served as the show’s lead since 2020. She initially struggled with the role.
“I had a hard time because I didn’t want to be the party planner for the observance of the month,” Bermudez said. “I’ve always wanted to make a difference and feel that what I’m doing adds value and contributes to meaningful change.”
A year into her wrestling, Bermudez participated in a pilot training program set up by the National Guard Bureau’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Part of the teaching focused on emotional intelligence. This is where she found her voice.
“I have discovered that emotional intelligence training is a tool that will take you to the edge of self-understanding with a vocabulary that will help you name and better understand how and why you present yourself in the world,” said said Bermudez. “It helps us understand why we do what we do and even better, it’s a skill set that, with a little education and training, you can appear to the world as a better version of yourself. .”
Walsh and Bermudez were the first of their cohort to deliver the full 8-hour block of emotional intelligence training, spreading the wealth of knowledge to others within the organization.
“I think the best part of my job is when an individual has an ‘aha’ moment and I see their eyes go wide when all of the concepts and ideas we’re discussing come together and they get it. “Walsh said.
Working in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion has also helped Walsh and Bermudez explore their core values and use them to effectively fulfill their roles supporting Wisconsin service members.
“It’s one of my core values to protect my peers and my community,” Walsh said. “So this position allows me to act in accordance with my values by trying to ensure inclusive behavior in this organization.”
Bermudez said his values are growth, connection and authenticity.
“As the Diversity and Inclusion Program Manager, I can be authentically me and grow as a professional in one of today’s most in-demand career fields,” Bermudez said. “And I can develop meaningful connections with people in ways I didn’t know existed before.”
The role can also be lonely and very difficult at times, Bermudez added.
“Diversity and inclusion work is not easy because it highlights behaviors that are not correct or acceptable in our changing society,” Bermudez said. “By nature, conversations about race, gender, ableism are uncomfortable. Some people welcome the chance to have an education on these subjects, but others at that time are confronted with their privilege and the things they have done wrong – this brings up feelings of shame, guilt and grief. ’embarrassment.
Teamwork, however, is fundamental to ensuring that the Wisconsin National Guard is inclusive and that its members feel a sense of belonging as they are.
“It helps build a culture that goes beyond fitting in and being like everyone else and that seeks out the humanity of the other,” Bermudez said. “Members of service may look alike, but our diverse ways of living, loving, learning, thinking, speaking, and being true to ourselves require a place that embraces it all.”