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My blood runs blue

By Tech. Sgt. Maritza Mueller Equal Opportunity director

In February 2000, my motives for enlisting in the Air Force for only four years were purely to obtain an education. Thirteen years later, I'm still in, continuing to serve my country in any way I can. What can I say, my blood turned blue. I look back at how the Air Force was and compare it to how the Air Force is today. I hear many people say the Air Force has gone "soft" and we are too "sensitive" for the military way of life. How has the Air Force changed in thirteen, or even twenty years?

Statistically, the Air Force's demographics could be part of the explanation of the perceived changes. According to Air Force Historical Studies Office, the demographics between 1993 and today have gone through quite a transformation. Twenty years ago, there were 444,351 Active Duty Military personnel. According to the Air Force Personnel Center, as of June 2013, there are 329,489 Active Duty Military personnel. No surprise there; the Air Force has downsized in 20 years.

Now let's look at some other statistics. As reported by AFHSO in 1993, 15% of the Air Force population were women. Today, women make up 19% the Air Force population. Also in 1993, the minority (racial) population equaled 19% of the population. In 2013, AFPC reports the minority, as identified by military members to include the Hispanic ethnicity, equals 36% of the Air Force population. These statistics show our Air Force is currently working with fewer personnel, as well as a more diverse force.

The Air Force, along with all branches of the military, has become more diverse through the years. The benefits of diversity in the military are endless. Learning and understanding the experiences, cultures, and backgrounds within your work centers can assist in obtaining the cohesion and pride we strive for to efficiently carry out our mission. Our force's demographics contribute to the Air Force's changing culture. As with any organization, when change occurs, the expectation is for all to adapt and overcome. It is each Airman's responsibility to maintain professionalism for the simple fact that as members of the U.S. Armed Forces, we are held to a higher standard. Can we, as military members, still maintain professionalism at work, regardless of the organization's culture, while providing support and camaraderie to each other through respect, common sense and communication? Absolutely!

When I hear personnel say the Air Force is too sensitive and we can't even joke around anymore without getting into trouble, I remember the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen Mark Welsh's message, "Whether you're uniformed or civilian, every Airman has a story, and the stories are magic. Some of them are inspirational. Some of them are incredibly uplifting. Some of them are a little sad. But if you don't know the story, you can't lead the Airman."

Learn the story behind your Airmen, wingmen, subordinates and supervisors, and understand when their experiences and backgrounds are recognized without labeling each other or even ourselves by our cultural differences, we show respect by using common sense and communication. Our Air Force will continue to advocate diversity. Once we all have a mutual understanding and respect, we will realize that whatever differences we may have, our blood runs blue - Air Force blue. One team, one fight!