Misawa to survey troops on prejudice claims
January 12, 2010
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Misawa commander Col. David Stilwell has encouraged unit leaders on the base to survey their troops based on the results of an overall 35th Fighter Wing assessment showing some airmen believe there are discrimination problems in the workplace.
The wing’s assessment was conducted Nov. 1-15, and about 330 of the 3,000 Air Force personnel at Misawa took part, according to the Military Equal Opportunity Office, which conducted the survey.
According to the results, 6.4 percent of those who answered reported “overt discriminatory behavior,” and 3.5 percent reported issues with “perceived discrimination.”
Wing Command Chief Master Sgt. Russell Hastings said those results don’t equate to a crisis on the air base. But, he said, with a policy of zero tolerance on issues such as discrimination, Stilwell wants commanders to take a closer look to see if they can identify problem areas in their individual units.
“If there’s any kind of perception at all out there about there being an unfavorable atmosphere, then it’s something that we need to concentrate on,” Hastings said.
The assessment also measured airmen’s sense of cohesion and pride, their motivation and morale, whether they believed they receive supervisory support and whether they think there are equal employment opportunities, officials said.
Hastings said the assessments are not mandatory for commanders and that it’s unusual to conduct one at a wing level. He said nothing prompted the call for the wing assessment, other than Stilwell’s usual desire to hear directly from the troops, and the anonymous survey provided another avenue for that input.
“Col. Stilwell is big for unfiltered comment,” he said. “And … I like to hear feedback that doesn’t go through seven or eight layers of the chain of command before it gets to us.”
While the majority of the assessment is standardized, commanders can add 10 local questions. The wing’s localized questions focused on child care, on- and off-duty activities and whether the troops understand their role in the overall mission.
Hastings said Misawa leaders have expressed concern with alcohol-related incidents, and one of the questions focused on what the airmen do when they get off work.
“Do you just go find a bar, or do you go use the Airman Extreme program, do you go to college, do you take classes — what are you doing?” Hastings explained.
Hastings said now that the command has a grasp of what the 35th Fighter Wing community is feeling as a whole, individual unit commanders can dig down and better identify problem areas with their own assessments.
He said that Stilwell will not seek out individual unit results, which is the basic principle behind making the assessments available to unit commanders. A unit commander can get “unfettered feedback without having his boss look over his shoulder and see it,” Hastings said. “The unit commander doesn’t have to worry about: ‘OK, if you say a bunch of bad things about me, it’s going to hurt my career later,’ ”
The wing’s senior enlisted leader said the overall response in the assessment was positive. However, Hastings said, he doesn’t particularly like one of the questions on the standardized survey — whether people think they’re being recognized for their work. He said some airmen are going to feel their work has rated recognition, but they haven’t gotten it.
“If we recognized everybody, then recognition wouldn’t really mean anything,” he said.
Hastings added that the survey also showed a trend he’s seen in the past 10 years: The Air Force as a whole is feeling understaffed and overtaxed operationally.
The Air Force also conducts a worldwide climate survey, and the next one is scheduled for this year, according to an Air Force news release.