Diversity brings Airmen closer
By Senior Airman Kyla Gifford, 30th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 19, 2016
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Since 1968, the Department of Defense has supported observances through the development of local programs of recognition and diverse activities. Ethnic and special observances are conducted to enhance cross-cultural awareness and promote diversity among all military members, civilian employees, contractors, family members and retirees.
The focus is to recognize the continuous achievements of all cultures and ethnicities, and increase awareness, mutual respect and understanding.
"The Special Observance Committee, here at Vandenberg Air Force Base, is the Wing Commander's program on diversity, acceptance, awareness and inclusion," said Lizz Leininger, 30th Logistics Readiness Squadron secretary and Chairman of the Special Observance Committee. "We have themes and special monthly observances put on by volunteers on base."
All the special observances are proclaimed by the President of the United States. Throughout the year, the committee commemorates all those special observances with various events each month.
"We do small things for each monthly observance," said Leininger. "Then, usually in August, which has no special observance for that month, we have what is called our Diversity Day, when we celebrate the culmination of the observances."
Diversity Day is a base organized event to let any of those who missed an event throughout the year participate and observe all the diversity around base. This day offers food, music and entertainment from all different backgrounds and cultures.
The Special Observance Committee, a great leadership opportunity for Airmen, is in need of members and event volunteers.
"The committee grows and shrinks, because there is such a transition of people in and out," said Vanneca Phelps, Director of Equal Opportunity. "We would like to keep it a nice healthy size. There is always a volunteer opportunity, and we would like to get a group of people who remain a constant."
The organization seeks to encourage a diversity of volunteers to better improve future events.
"Everyone has a talent. Everyone brings something to the table," said Phelps. "You can show up and do a great job at setting tables, directing people, or being the Master of Ceremony. It's volunteer based and put on by people who are diverse and talented."
Phelps is in charge of the committee's finances which have been allotted by the base commander.
"My job is to make sure that those funds are evenly distributed and used appropriately," said Phelps. "Also, to give guidance in the way we want to see things go."
Active command support and leadership along with thorough planning are key fundamentals for the program's success.
"We're always changing things," said Leininger. "We have been working really well with people over the last few years, and are looking forward to seeing what others have to bring to the table."
Protocol recently volunteered to help plan events for Black History Month, and will be doing small events throughout the month of February.
"We like to see other private organizations around base join forces during a month to pull something together," said Phelps. "More is better. You get different perspectives, viewpoints and expertise. You get different things that flow together into one big, creative event."
Everyone with base access is allowed to attend these events. Even without base access there are ways to attend.
"If you would like to come, then we do have someone who will be willing to sponsor you on base," said Phelps. "Whether you want to be part of an event and bring your specialty, or just attend. Our committee is here to share the wealth and knowledge that everybody has something special and unique about them, and this is the forum that you get to share it in. When people who are diverse get together, big things happen."
The success of this committee is directly related to those who participate and bring their own traditions and ideas to the group.
"The beauty of our group is that we learn from each other, and we are looking for more people who will join so we can learn from them," said Leininger. "Everyone has a story and an input."
To learn more about the Special Observance Committee and volunteer opportunities, contact Lizz Leininger at 805-606-6933.