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Marine Gunnery Sgt. Richard Irizarry talks about combatting stereotypes. He's the new equal opportunity advisor for the 3rd Marine Logistics Group on Okinawa.
Marine Gunnery Sgt. Richard Irizarry talks about combatting stereotypes. He's the new equal opportunity advisor for the 3rd Marine Logistics Group on Okinawa. (David Allen / S&S)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — If there’s one thing Gunnery Sgt. Richard Irizarry dislikes, it is stereotypes.

Growing up in Passaic, N.J., and Puerto Rico, he saw firsthand how some people tend to treat other people based on their skin color or their names. To a much lesser extent, he says, such bias also exists in the Marine Corps.

And it’s his job to decrease it even more.

Irizarry, a 19-year Marine veteran, is the new equal opportunity adviser for the 3rd Marine Logistics Group. That means he advises the command concerning policies and guidelines on equal opportunity as set forth by the commandant of the Marine Corps and ensures the program within the 3rd MLG is effective.

“When I was offered the opportunity to attend a 10-week course at the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute, I saw it as an opportunity to make a difference in the Marine Corps,” Irizarry said recently.

“I encountered a lot more discrimination in the civilian world,” Irizarry said. “But during my time in the Marine Corps, I didn’t see it as much. And it’s changed a lot over the years — dramatically.

“What we’re striving for is for everyone to be educated, to be aware of all types of discrimination — and to take positive action when they do see it,” he said.

He said there are two ways to confront discrimination.

“First, there’s the informal resolution route,” he said. “If you see it, step in and stop it. Or, report it to your unit equal opportunity representative and have them speak to the offender.

“Then there’s the formal complaint,” he added. “Everyone has the right to request a formal mast. Or they can talk to the inspector general’s office or write to their congressman.”

Irizarry is one of five Marine equal opportunity advisers on Okinawa. The others are assigned to the III Marine Expeditionary Force, the 3rd Marine Division, Marine Corps Bases Japan and the 1st Air Wing.

The most important part of his job is teaching awareness, he said.

“We have to make sure our Marines and sailors know discrimination can hurt combat readiness, damage morale and eventually affects the growth of individuals within the Corps,” said Irizzary, who also will speak to anyone with harassment or discrimination concerns. Since he came to Okinawa in January he said he has not seen any major discriminatory trends nor heard any complaints.

Irizarry said the goal of each equal opportunity adviser is to maintain high standards that ensure all individuals are treated with dignity and respect, “affording every Marine and sailor an equal opportunity for professional advancement based on individual merit.”

“They can call me any time they want,” he said. His phone number is DSN 637-1748, and his office is in Building 110 on Camp Kinser.

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