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Differences should be celebrated

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- A changing environment is a constant reminder for us to remain flexible and open to new ideas; whether favorable or unfavorable. As the director of the equal opportunity office at Offutt, I was recently caught in the current of change when the equal employment and military equal opportunity offices were merged into one equal opportunity office. With that change, I inherited a variety of additional responsibilities and programs that I previously had no involvement with. 

One program was the ethnic observance program. When it was placed in my lap, the program was struggling to survive due to a variety of issues such as increased workloads, decreased personnel and deployment rates. Personnel were unavailable or unwilling to take the time required to volunteer for observance programs and give the attention needed to have a successful program here at Offutt. 

Through a variety of conversations with the installation commander, the multicultural heritage committee was approved to operate on Offutt as a single entity that would represent the five major ethnic observances. Once established, members identified the primary goal of the MHC as fostering appreciation, mutual respect, understanding and awareness of individual differences, which will increase unit effectiveness and cohesion. Other MHC goals include resolving observance month volunteer concerns, increasing participation by focusing on and conducting one event per observance, all while promoting respect and understanding among Offutt's diverse population. 

Up to this point, the MHC has successfully sponsored the African-American Heritage and Women's History Month observances. Committee members were excited for the opportunity to participate in these events. Their unity and excitement prompted me to ask them why they continued to volunteer their time to attend weekly meetings and support these types of observances. 

Capt. Sean Park, an electronic warfare operations evaluator with the 55th Operations Group Standards Evaluation Office, felt globalization is the key reason to have committees such as the MHC. He further explained, globalization is a subjective term because it has come to mean different things to different people and cultures. He believes globalization refers to the trend toward countries joining together economically, through education, society and politics, and viewing themselves not only through their national identity but also as part of the world as a whole. 

Captain Park felt if the president of the United States found it important enough to educate himself on other cultures and attempt to open lines of communication between nations around the world, the MHC should be willing to educate themselves and others on the contributions made by various groups represented in the Air Force. 

Faye M. Meriwether, a tools and parts attendant with the 55th Maintenance Squadron, said "To live in America, you have to know America; learning is a necessity." She believes it is important to support committees such as the MHC, because they provide an opportunity to learn and understand more about the people she works with on a daily basis. 

The MHC seeks to take the ideals and cultures seen in the globalization perspective and tie them in to the local perspective on Offutt. The MHC utilizes the diverse committee of military, civilian and family members to educate our community on the benefits of embracing our differences, and realizing that our differences can and should be used to draw us together rather than cause division. After all, we have more things in common than we realize. The MHC is another means to capitalize on and embrace those positive differences, which has made the United States the great nation it is. 

To volunteer with Offutt's MHC, call Cathy Curry at 232-6028.