SAF DI leadership breaks barriers at AFA

  • Published
  • By Capt. Shane Ellis
  • Secretary of the Air Force Diversity and Inclusion office

The Secretary of the Air Force Diversity and Inclusion office showcased a pivotal presence at the Air & Space Forces Association’s 2023 Air, Space and Cyber Conference held Sept. 11 - 13 at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor. 

SAF/DI’s presence was paramount at the Air, Space & Cyber Conference, which provided first-class professional military development and shared emerging requirements and technologies to help fuel connections that advance the cause of air and space power. 

A standout moment was Marianne Malizia, Secretary of the Air Force Diversity and Inclusion director, participating in the AFA panel discussion titled "Shattering Barriers to Success."

Addressing the critical importance of diversity and inclusion in the Air Force and Space Force, Malizia noted the totality of the DAF’s strength.  

"Our force's strength is the sum of individual experiences, backgrounds and talents,” she said. “By embracing diversity and inclusion, we enhance adaptability, improve decision-making and boost cohesion and morale." 

The panel provided a deep dive into how diversity and inclusion intricately tie into mission readiness and overall success. Malizia emphasized how diverse teams lead to improved decision making, a broader spectrum of skills and a stronger response to international challenges.  

In addition, the discussion shed light on the vital role the Department of the Air Force Barrier Analysis Working Group, or DAFBAWG, has played in unearthing institutional barriers and advising senior leaders on necessary policy changes. 

Chief Master Sgt. Don Pedro, SAF DI senior enlisted leader, reinforced the importance of diversity and inclusion in shaping the future of the Air and Space Forces. 

"When our Airmen and Guardians face barriers, it's our duty to ensure they have the tools and channels to voice concerns and seek mentorship," he said.  

He urged individuals to engage in diversity and inclusion training, build alliances and tap into mentorship opportunities. 

SAF DI's commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion was evident throughout the conference. 

Their partnership with the Ira C. Eaker Center for Leadership Development, live breakout sessions, round table discussions with Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall and engagements with other senior DAF leaders showcased a comprehensive and united front. 

During the conference, a crucial round table discussion took place between representatives and champions from  DAFBAWG teams. This provided an opportunity to engage with key DAF leadership, including Kendall; Performing the Duties of Under Secretary of the Air Force Kristyn Jones; Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Alex Wagner; and Malizia.  

A key takeaway from the discussion was the need to create a forum for direct and regular crosstalk between DAF senior leaders and the DAFBAWG teams. 

These events reiterated that the drive toward diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility is not just about ticking boxes but about strengthening the force to tackle the challenges of tomorrow with dignity, respect and unparalleled capability. 

Pedro said SAF DI will lead in championing the cause of diversity and inclusion as the DAF continues to foster professional growth and glean insights into cutting-edge requirements and technologies.