by Staff Sgt. Hannah Dickerson and Senior Airman Cody Martin
11/16/2015 - EBBING AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ark. -- What
is diversity? Most would think of a person's race, gender and
ethnicity; however diversity includes a number of various qualities. The
188th Wing embraces all forms of diversity as it continues its
transition to a remotely piloted aircraft, space targeting and
intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission sets.
The changes in mission sets, the inclusion of men and women from other
branches, the change in American culture throughout the years and a
number of other various differences have brought not only a modern
diversity among Airmen in the 188th, but an overall change from how the
unit appeared throughout the years.
Chaplain (Col.) Thomas Smith, Arkansas Joint Force Headquarters command
chaplain and 188th full-time chaplain, first came into the unit in 1983
and is one of the unit's longest standing members.
"What I see is that the younger generation is coming in [to the Air
Force], and I am excited about it," Smith observed. "They bring in a
different view of things and I believe if we will capitalize on that,
utilize them and challenge them, then there is no way to go but up."
Smith's time in the unit, as well as his 10 year expedition to the
Philippines as a missionary, has brought an enormous amount of
experience with different cultures and ways of thinking.
"Diversity is essential," Smith added. "We all have different gifts and
abilities. When we blend everything together we can create a diverse
culture that is still focused on a singular mission."
Throughout the unit's history, the wing has broadened their diversity by
gaining service members from every branch of the military, including
the active, guard and reserve components.
Master Sgt. Jodie Haralson, 188th Communications Flight noncommissioned
officer in charge of infrastructure, was formally a Marine and currently
volunteers as a vice commander of U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla
15-5 in Fort Smith, Arkansas.
"In my opinion, diversity is a conglomeration of different backgrounds
of people brought together," Haralson stated. "When I first came here,
you had the same type of person at the 188th. Now we are totally
different. We have people that come from other states, different
upbringings and possess a different mentality. Now we're challenged with
bringing all of the people together and becoming one."
Haralson's time in different military branches has brought an extraordinary amount of experience to the wing.
"In every military branch, you have a mission to perform," said
Haralson. "We cannot have animosity. It doesn't fit in. We all work
together and blend our experiences to get the mission done."
The unit has also been a source of inclusion for different nationalities of people.
Airman 1st Class Emmanuel Quarshie, 188th Civil Engineer Squadron
electrical systems technician, was born and raised in Ghana, Africa
before coming to the United States.
"I wanted to serve this nation because it has a lot of things to offer,"
Quarshie remarked. "Everyone in America is blessed and I truly
appreciate being here and serving this country."
Quarshie's stints in both Ghana and the U.S. have not only provided a
unique perspective, but also an understanding of how diversity can
strengthen the bonds between individuals.
"We are one team one fight," Quarshie stated. "If we all thought the same way, I don't think this country would be so great."
With Airmen from different backgrounds, the 188th utilizes the
differences in gifts, abilities, views and values to bring new ideas,
knowledge and experience to accomplish the mission and positions
themselves for long range success. Each unique member of the 188th Wing
and the Air National Guard is cultivated into ready, responsive and
highly-skilled Airmen and brought together to create one powerful force.
"We must blend together like an orchestra," Smith said. "The orchestra
has a lot of different moving pieces, but a conductor must take those
diverse talents and blend them together so that it makes a beautiful
symphony and that's what we're doing here at the 188th."