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Resource Group leads set the pace for DEI progress

Hanscom employee captures BIG award

Jacquelynn Coles, Hanscom's Black Member Employee Resource Group program lead, stands for a photo at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., June 19, 2019. As part of Hanscom's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion cell, Coles has specialized training to determine barriers when it comes to recruitment, hiring, retention and representation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Linda LaBonte Britt)

Steve Ober, installation Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Office chief, speaks to senior leaders at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., Feb. 23. The new DEI office at Hanscom will focus on all aspects of diversity, equity and inclusion on the installation in accordance with the president’s executive order on advancing racial equity and the acting secretary of the Air Force’s directed racial disparity review. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Maki)

Steve Ober, installation Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Office chief, speaks to senior leaders at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., Feb. 23, 2021. The DEI office at Hanscom is currently recruiting Member Employee Resource Group leads for Hispanic, Native American and LGBQ+ Special Emphasis Groups. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Maki)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Members of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Cell here are tracking the pulse of the installation’s way forward to advancing racial and gender equity for members of the workforce.

The DEI Cell includes Member Employee Resource Group program leads for the Black, Asian American and Women affinity groups. These volunteers receive specialized training to determine barriers when it comes to recruitment, hiring, retention and representation.

Recently, the group leads and DEI representatives have begun conducting unconscious bias training with senior leaders across the installation.

“When leaders are so high up the chain, it’s easy to feel like they won’t be able to relate to someone like you, but it’s humbling to see them come forward and be vulnerable in these situations.” said 1st Lt. Rudra Patel, Hanscom’s Asian American MERG. “To have such high-ranking leaders ask how they can be more inclusive leaders is really powerful.” 

Patel has been the Asian-American group lead for nearly a year and credits his time in the organization with helping him share more about his family’s Indian heritage and culture.

“Before I joined the DEI Cell, I would almost purposefully try to blend in and fit into the organization, but having these conversations has really helped me be okay with who I am,” he said. “I can bring my authentic self to work.”

Jacquelynn Coles, Hanscom’s Black MERG group lead, said she is determined to drive the DEI Cell’s mission forward.

“I took on this role because I care about my people. And I care about the Air Force and seeing us move forward,” said Coles. “This is a labor of passion, but it’s what I’m passionate about.”

The Hanscom DEI Cell is currently recruiting MERG leads for Hispanic, Native American and LGBTQ+ Special Emphasis Groups. The leads would provide advice and education to management, supervisors and employees on addressing the needs and concerns of their respective affinity groups.

Officials say applicants don’t have to belong to the affinity group to become the group lead, only a genuine desire to advocate for equity.

“I would encourage anyone who wants to look outside of their own self to participate in this program,” said 2nd Lt. Kareen Lacroix, the Women’s MERG lead here. “Those of us in uniform know what it’s like to serve outside of ourselves for the good of others, so if that’s what you want to do, this is the place for you.”

As the DEI Cell continues to set the groundwork for tomorrow’s force, the MERGs continue to work the necessary conversations about equity and inclusion into Hanscom’s culture.

“Being a part of the program is the right thing to do, and this is the right time to do it,” said Coles. “We are all public servants, and part of that means doing what’s right, determining the challenges of our peers and mitigating those so that everyone is working from a somewhat equal playing field.”

For more information about the Hanscom DEI cell and the available MERG positions, email Stephen.Ober@us.af.mil.