Marine veteran develops a new program for military diversity, inclusion
By EMILY LYTLE | Dover Post | Published: January 8, 2020
(Tribune News Service) — Crowned Ms. Veteran Delmarva 2020 in September, Master Sgt. Jewell Robinson has set her eyes on a goal that goes beyond sparkles and a sash. She hopes to create a mandatory training program for diversity and inclusion across all military branches.
When she won the pageant in Salisbury, Maryland, she thought about how she could use her 12-month reign to improve the experience of all military members. "I've got one year to make a difference," she said.
In the Marine Corps since 1998 and now as a reservist, Robinson has worked with the Army, Air Force and Navy and noticed a military-wide need.
"Being able to know the person you're seated next to, let alone the person you want to deploy with and go to combat with, is so important," Robinson said. "Often times you skip over that and get very narrow, mission-focused that you forget what makes us unique and different."
For example, Robinson noticed how a sensitivity to others' backgrounds and experiences helped in her work at the Dover Air Force Base mortuary.
While civilian workers often have access to sensitivity or diversity and inclusion training, there is nothing like that in the military's annual required training. Bringing that training to the military can improve cohesion, morale and trust, she said.
"I think sometimes we don't think our voices are heard and are, most importantly, understood." she said. "I think, for me, it will give that voice to people to say, 'Someone gets me. Yes, we wear the same uniform, but we are distinctively different underneath it.'"
The new program is called G.E.M.S (Gender, Equality, Multicultural Support) and would be required for all ranks.
By looking at existing civilian diversity and inclusion programs, Robinson will develop a manual that uses language, examples and topics from the military.
She is working with Sen. Chris Coons' office to develop the program and present it to the Joint Chiefs of Staff for approval.
After the briefing at the Pentagon, Robinson will wait for approval, then create a team to write the program and train existing equal opportunity (EO) representatives to teach their units.
"It is a lengthy process, but I do hope that it gets approved and implemented. I really do think it will be something very unique and distinctive for all branches of the service to, again, link us all together through the training and education part of it," she said.
In the military, someone can file an EO complaint for discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, genetic information, disability or prior EO activity, according to the Air Force website. Robinson hopes her program will decrease complaints. "I think when you begin to understand each other, you will have less of the blurred lines; you will have less of the misunderstandings that can lead to an EO complaint," she said.
She aims to make the program educational and fun. "When you make that discussion fun and within a safe environment, it allows people to open up and say, 'yes, I get it. This is what I experience. What do you experience?'"