Missouri hosts National Guard Bureau's 3rd Annual Diversity Conference

  • Published
  • By Gary Stevens
  • Missouri National Guard
The Missouri National Guard recently hosted the National Guard Bureau's 3rd annual Diversity Conference, a major annual event that brings together hundreds of Soldiers and Airmen from across the country.

This year's conference drew more than 450 attendees from every state, as well as from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, to St. Louis. The audience was primarily high ranking officers and non-commissioned officers. The conference theme was "Diversity: Past, Present and Future - Shaping Tomorrow's Guard."

The conference was designed to highlight the importance of diversity and provide the information, tools and framework to train at any level within a unit or organization and to move each state's Diversity Program forward. It was also an opportunity for Soldiers and Airmen from different regions to exchange ideas and share best practices.

The state military personnel officer and Missouri's officer in charge for this conference, Lt. Col. Nancy Jones, credited the team of Missouri Soldiers and Airmen for the conference's outstanding success. She noted how every member of the team stepped up and overcame all the logistical and staffing challenges that come with hosting a national event and that they did so without hesitation.

"Comments by visiting conference attendees included a genuine appreciation for how the Missouri team had left nothing undone, and that the conference host state was beyond every expectation," said Jones.

Speakers discussed the importance of diversity as well as the benefits that come with it.

Diversity is vital to the National Guard and it is something that must be drawn on, not just discussed, said Col. Ondra L. Berry, director of the Office of Cultural Leadership and Development for the Air National Guard.

"Diversity adds value to the military. We want to keep traditions while having a new way to think and lead," said Berry. "Our dream should be to create a culture of greatness. People want to be in organizations that are making progress and moving forward."

"The benefits of equal opportunity and diversity are a stronger, more intelligent workforce and a safer, more secure nation," said Maj. Gen. Joseph Carter, adjutant general of the Massachusetts National Guard, and one of the featured speakers.

The conference offered a total of 36 small-group breakout sessions that covered a variety of topics including "Diversity Today: True Picture of the Guard," "Corporate Best Practices," "Empowering Our Differences and Mentoring," and "Current Operating Environment, Culture, and Cross-Cultural Competencies."

The event also featured distinguished speakers including Maj. Gen. John R. Hawkins III, director, Human Resources Police Directorate and Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel (G-1), Brig. Gen. Joyce L. Stevens, chair for the Director, National Guard National Equal Opportunity, Equal Employment Opportunity, Diversity Committee, and Brig. Gen. Stephen Danner, adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard.

Civilian guest speakers and trainers included Don Denmark, Patrice Gaines, Valerie E. Patton, and Craig Zablocki who provided additional insight and education to the audience.

Staff Sgt. Ken Weichert, of the Kentucky National Guard, or "Sergeant Ken" as he is known to fans of GX Magazine, led a rigorous exercise class in the mornings before the conference.

There was some additional excitement at the conference.

During a break, two Airmen from the Missouri Air National Guard's 131st Fighter Wing security forces, Tech Sgt. Robert Brooks, of St. Louis, and Staff Sgt. Herastico Pitty Diaz, of St. Louis, saw a young girl on her knees in obvious distress in St. Louis Union Station, where the conference was held. The girl was sweating and dizzy. The Airmen treated her for diabetic shock. They had her lay down and they took off their jackets to rest her head on. Brooks got information from the girl and her mother while Diaz called 911. The paramedics arrived, ran some blood sugar tests on the girl, and sent her home with her mother.

With all of the hard work and preparation, the conference worked out well and accomplished the mission of energizing, empowering and inspiring the Soldiers and Airmen and giving them the tools and knowledge to use diversity to strengthen the Guard.

"I'd like to thank Brig. Gen. Danner and his great crew from Missouri who helped make this conference run," said Stevens.

"I'm very pleased with the conference and the support we've received from the Missouri Soldiers and Airmen," said Maj. Patricia Smith, of the National Guard Bureau. "There was overwhelming interest in the conference this year. Every seat is filled in the rooms for the breakout sessions. We're looking forward to planning for 2010."

Danner summed up one of the primary messages of the conference.

"We need to associate diversity with strength. Diversity will make us more successful," said Danner. "It is imperative that we understand and value our differences and realize that diversity can be our strength."

For more information about the Missouri National Guard, please call 1-888-GoGuard or visit www.moguard.com.

For more information about this release, please contact Gary Stevens at (314) 416-1868 or (314) 378-5583 or e-mail gary.stevens5@us.army.mil.