Department of Defense reflects on 40
years of diversity training
|By Lisa Daniel, American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, D.C. — It’s been 40 years since the military began training
troops to accept each others’ differences and get along. And if anyone
questions the value of diversity training, they need only to consider
how much things have changed since it began, the director of the Defense
Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI) says.
“When we started in the ‘70s, the armed forces were faced with behaviors
that really were drastic in nature,” Ronald M. Joe told American Forces
Press Service. “We had folks who were fighting each other. There were
race riots, and physical violence in the armed forces, with one
servicemember against another.”
The institute was created in 1971 as the Defense Race Relations
Institute to quell the tensions. Department of Defense (DoD) officials
thought their mission would be accomplished in three years, Joe said.
“But because we deal with human beings, because we are dealing with a
microcosm of the United States, ... we are constantly having to train
folks to be able to get along with one another ... and valuing our
differences and how they aid us in accomplishing our missions,” he said.
As the institute has continued to evolve, Joe said, more focus has been
placed on removing barriers, understanding command climate and
developing strategies to enhance workplace performance. Equal
Opportunity (EO) professionals help unit commanders appreciate the
different perspectives each Soldier, Sailor, Airman and Marine brings to
the organization and how to leverage that talent to achieve the missions
at hand. DEOMI has graduated more than 40,000 military and civilian
When the institute observed its 40th anniversary during its eighth
biennial research symposium Dec. 6-8, 2011, more than 400 people were at
its Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., campus to learn about the latest
research and take part in panel discussions about diversity, inclusion,
equity and cultural competence, Joe said.
For Joe and the other DEOMI professionals, their work is all about
“I like to refer to DEOMI as a national treasure,” he said. “I think
this is the only organization in the DoD that does what it does, and
probably the only one in the world. Our mission is all about readiness.”
Since its establishment DEOMI has moved beyond just keeping the peace,
Joe said, to breaking down institutional barriers to advancement and
drafting policies to promote equal opportunity, inclusion and value for
cross-cultural competencies such as foreign language and cultural
As the institute changes with the times, he said, it must stay true to
its roots. The military has proven itself a model for inclusion and
equal opportunity, he added, and must continue to do so.
“Our armed forces have been a real leader in showing how people can work
together and live together regardless of differences,” Joe said.
“There has been a great deal of progress,” he added. “People in our
armed forces are much more caring about each other, and much more
focused on the mission” than in the institute’s early days.
At Fort McCoy, the point of contact for servicemembers with EO questions
is the EO Office, building 1644.
Master Sgt. Claudia Simpson, Fort McCoy EO adviser, said EO offers
luncheon observances and Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) training
to educate servicemembers in the Fort McCoy community. The observances
also are open to federal civilian employees.
Federal civilian employees are required to complete POSH training via
the Internet on an annual basis.
The DEOMI website at
http://www.deomi.org/ provides various resources as well as training
videos for both Soldiers and civilians, Simpson said.
Many other websites also have pertinent information.
For more information about EO matters in the Fort McCoy community, call
the EO Office at 608-388-3246.