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“Troop Talk:” A forum to discuss the ‘state of the culture’

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Solomon Cook

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. – In response to feedback about the need for more venues to crosstalk about the state of the culture and how it’s affecting Airmen, wing leadership hosted six “Troop Talk” sessions Oct. 21-23.

Dubbed “State of the Culture,” the Troop Talks focused on creating a safe space where Airmen of all ranks, gender and ethnicity could express the concerns and challenges they were experiencing in this “current state” such as the pandemic, political and social injustice, or homeschool parenting for example.

“We solicited your feedback through email, surveys and other sources,” said Col. Angela Ochoa, 375th Air Mobility Wing vice commander, during opening remarks. “But, the feedback we got was we need to do more. So, this is a step in trying to do more. Trying to take it to a larger audience … it’s great that we can have these small group discussions in our workplaces, but what about people who are outside our unit? And, what about hearing from different perspectives, because that's, at the end of the day, what this is all about. Hearing different perspectives and then sharing so we can create that culture of belonging, that’s what we are really striving for here.”

Chief Master Sgt. Anthony Bekoff, 375th Mission Support Group superintendent, added that the “sensing sessions” were about gathering stories and “your truths.”

“We need this so you can help us figure out a way of going forward to promote diversity and inclusion. How do we address the challenges that you're facing? We need to hear [what they are and] encourage you to be open and transparent. Be understanding that this is going to likely to generate some raw emotions.  Like Col. Ochoa said … lean into that. Be OK with that uncomfortable, be vulnerable with one another. Through that, we can actually grow together.”

Events such as these do not just happen, especially in the COVID-19 timeframe. Volunteers such as Tech. Sgt. Joel Cheatham, 618th Air Operations Center, worked hand-in-hand with Master Sgt. Jeremey McCarty, 375th Security Forces Squadron, to ensure the event went off smoothly.

“Lots of coordination, patience and positive attitudes [went into this],” Cheatham said. “We have held countless meetings leading up to the launch date of this event. Some in person, some [virtual].  The seminars were geared toward safe-zone conversations concerning the current climate of unrest and were broken down by rank and peer groups. Each day we hosted an open forum leaning to that specific audience. Civilians had an allotted date and time as well. We wanted all members of Team Scott to feel they belong.”

Airmen were asked to dress in civilian attire. If they were wearing a rank insignia, they were asked to remove it in a show of togetherness. While the event took place, Airmen shared their personal stories with the focus to enlighten others in a non-attribution format.

For example, in one of the sessions, an Airman spoke about growing up biracial and not fitting in. Another spoke about growing up without a father and the struggles there within.  

“My hope is all attendees will feel a part of the team without having to ever water down their true identities. I believe this is a groundbreaking step in the right direction to ensure a better future for our Air Force through deliberate, thought provoking reflection,” he said.