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Progress marches on for more diverse Army

By Thomas Brading | Army News Service

FORT CARSON, Colo. — The roadmap to a modernized Army relies on building a more diverse force, said the head of Army Training and Doctrine Command last week.

A panel of leaders, including Gen. Paul E. Funk. TRADOC commanding general, highlighted the Army’s diversity goals and how the service can best reflect the nation it defends during a discussion Oct. 13, 2020, at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition.

The Army is “a culture built on trust that harnesses experiences, cultures, characteristics, and backgrounds (all) Soldiers and civilians bring into our great Army,” Funk said.

“Whether you wear a uniform or a suit, you’re part of an Army profession,” Funk added. “It’s our responsibility to uphold that culture and the sacred trust of the American people.”

Building cohesive teams

To do that, various initiatives have rolled out in the past year to move the Army’s culture toward diversity. One recent example has been Project Inclusion, a sweeping, five-part review of governance structures, marketing, guidance, mentorship, and leadership practices to increase deliberate thinking and the value diversity brings.

“To build cohesive teams to the Army, we begin by looking at our culture, and building it based on ideas,” said E. Casey Wardynski, assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs.

“They’re very American things like a level playing field, human dignity, allowing talents to take you as far as you can go and rise as far as you can,” he added. By doing this, a Soldier’s talents in the Army are “building teams upon which future victory rests.”

When it comes to inclusion, Wardynski said the Army’s approach avoids dividing groups individually. “(We’re) bringing people together and showing them what they can accomplish.”

“Any organization as large as the Army needs to be careful of the folks they bring in,” Wardynski said. “We want folks who come into the Army to be part of our culture, support

the key notions that underlie our country” and live up to the oath of the Constitution.

If for whatever reason those individuals don’t align with those inclusive values, “we would look to remove them from our organization because they simply couldn’t fit” in with the Army’s culture, Wardynski said.

West Point’s ‘leaders of character’

The push for an inclusive force goes beyond the enlisted ranks, though Funk said enlisted Soldiers are more diverse than ever.

The U.S. Military Academy is also hitting diversity milestones. This year brought in its most diverse freshmen class in the school’s 218-year history, said Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, the academy’s superintendent.

Over the summer, 1,200 cadet candidates arrived at the service academy in West Point, New York. Of those, nearly 500 identified as minorities including 214 African Americans and 141 Hispanic Americans, who will be “developed into the Army to fight and win in a multi-domain battlefield,” Williams said.

The academy’s mission is to cultivate and welcome young men and women from all walks of life, and in 47 months turn them into leaders of character ready to join the Army’s fighting force, he said.

Until a few years ago, women were unable to serve in combat arms positions, such as infantry and field artillery, Wardynski said. But now the academy is “graduating good-sized cohorts of ladies entering those branches and going off to Ranger school.”

The academy is not only accepting women into traditional combat arms branches, Wardynski added, but “acculturating them into the Army with the notion they can take their talents anywhere and rise to their maximum potential.”

A more inclusive Army

Having a diverse force is only the beginning. The Army also has numerous reforms in place that aim to eliminate deliberate thinking in career development. In August 2020, for instance, all Department of the Army photos were suspended from promotion boards, while race, ethnicity, and gender data have all been redacted from officer and enlisted records briefs.

Moving forward, the Army plans to “continue the work that we began in equity and inclusion,” said Anselm Beach, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for equity and inclusion. “We are looking at the work in readiness by optimizing customized talents.”

Although the Army’s senior leaders have forged ahead with their plans, the driving force of change will rely on Army leadership at all levels at every installation, Williams said.

Progress marches on for more diverse Army
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