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Equality, trust essential to 55th Wing, AF mission

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- If someone were to say to you, "MEO is vital to mission accomplishment," what would your response be?

Would you think "How could a program that doesn't get planes off the ground, secure the perimeter or move equipment be vital to the mission?"

Let's imagine for a moment a couple of scenarios. Suppose Airman #1 is working at their control center monitoring signals that could provide vital target information. As Airman #1 works, Airman #2 continually comments about how nice Airman #1 looks in their uniform and periodically brushes past by "accident." In this environment, is it possible Airman #1 may not have their full concentration on the task and could miss critical information?

Or how about this scenario, what if you, the reader, were tasked to provide convoy support and your partner constantly makes jokes about your race or gender (always telling you, "You know I'm just kidding right? I like your people.") Would this action foster the intense trust we need in one another as military members?

It is for these reasons MEO is essential to mission accomplishment. It promotes an environment where we can focus on the task at hand and cultivate an environment of trust. The mission of the 55th Wing MEO office is to improve mission effectiveness by assisting commanders at all levels in conducting programs for military members, family members and retirees regarding equal opportunity and treatment and human relations education. We do this by conducting complaint clarifications, facilitations, human relations education and climate assessments. We also provide referrals to people in need of assistance with concerns that do not fall under the equal opportunity policies.

"Our office is a helping agency working directly for the 55th Wing commander to ensure the Air Force and commander's 'zero tolerance' policies are known at all levels across Team Offutt," said Capt. Scott Smith, Chief, 55th Wing Military Equal Opportunity. "Our ultimate goal is to maintain the integrity of this policy and help all Airmen address concerns that violate the EO policy. We always encourage lowest level resolution to promote unit trust, but stand ready to assist at higher levels as necessary."

Anytime someone feels they have been unlawfully discriminated against or sexually harassed, they may come to talk to us. If their concern does not fall under the protected categories of sex (includes sub category sexual harassment), race, religion, color or national origin, we will refer them to either their chain of command or to another helping agency for assistance.

It is important for people who visit the MEO office to know that it does not offer confidentiality. MEO is required to notify the individual's chain of command and/or the chain of command of the concerned party. This allows unit leadership to have a working knowledge of their unit members' concerns and how those individuals are seeking to resolve them.

"Our Airmen face all the challenges found in society at large and they face special challenges found only in the military," said Senior Master Sgt. Ernest Nielson, 55 Medical Group first sergeant. "We pride ourselves in being independent generalists who can handle any problem we encounter.

"Unfortunately some problems overwhelm us. We must be able to step back and seek the assistance of those who are subject matter experts in their specialized field, whether it is financial, medical, marital, spiritual, educational, or any host of other issues. You will typically find that most people have more than one problem on their plate so it is essential that all the helping agencies interact with each other as a team so that no one falls through the cracks," Sergeant Nelson said.

The MEO office offers facilitation and team building education to supervisors at all levels. In facilitation the MEO staff works with disputing parties and help them develop solutions to their concerns. The MEO office also develops and conducts team building sessions tailored to a supervisor's specific goals within their organization. Additionally, the MEO office has a modest resource section with books, videos and a computer allowing Airmen to research human relations issues.

The key to combating personal situations which affect mission accomplishment is knowledge and action. If you aren't sure what your situation needs next, MEO may have the answer. For more information on the services the MEO office offers, call 294-3709.