AG Update: Four-phase plan to address diversity, equality

To the Virginia National Guard Team:

Let me begin by emphasizing the key points of my message to the force from 5 June: Prejudice and discrimination of any form has no place in our formations and will not be tolerated or ignored.  There is no doubt in my mind that Virginia’s strength is in our diversity and equality.

I continue to have tremendous respect for and commend those who have stood up to exercise their right to peacefully protest, a cornerstone of our Republic. As the Adjutant General of Virginia, it is my responsibility to foster an environment where your voice is heard. Soldiers, Airmen, Virginia Defense Force personnel and state and federal civilians must feel valued, respected and able to voice concerns to their chain of command.

We need to continue to have tough conversations about the recent tragedies and turmoil that has gripped our country and been felt throughout all of our communities. I expect leaders at every level to talk directly to their teams and make sure everyone in the organization feels that they can speak their mind about issues troubling them.

I plan to begin holding virtual town halls in October 2020 to hear directly from our force and use this to help us determine our way ahead. While I would much rather do these in person, we have to factor in the health protection measures required to stay safe during the pandemic. More information will follow as we finalize the details.

We have also reinvigorated our Joint Diversity and Equality Council (JDEC) under the leadership of Brig. Gen. Toni Lord, our Air Component Commander, and they will help guide us as we move forward.

As we move forward as an organization, our plan has four distinct phases.

Phase I is already underway and consists of initial sensing sessions and data gathering which will be assessed quarterly.

Phase II will review data collected by a JDEC-appointed “Diversity and Inclusion” working group of current and retired National Guard Soldiers and Airmen. The working group will begin as soon as data is made available with the JDEC reviewing results and providing recommendations for organizational next steps.

Phase III will have the JDEC prioritize the recommendations and determine a timeline to implement changes or requested actions subject to the availability of resources.  

Phase IV will continuously conduct, review, and improve our diverse backgrounds, experiences, and skills to make our team more successful as well as a reflection of the population of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Everything is on the table for discussion, from symbolism in our patches and unit insignia to call signs to the process we use to select leaders for positions of responsibility. However, we are not going to rush into making changes. We will follow a deliberate process that takes into account our organizational history, incorporates a modern context and the voices from across our formations.

My sincere thanks to each and every one of you for your continued dedication to duty, and my prayers are with you and your families during these challenging times. Now more than ever we need to work as a team, but not shy away from the difficult discussions and work to bring everyone in the organization closer together.

Regards,

MG Timothy Williams
28th Adjutant General of Virginia