PEORIA, Ill. --
Airman 1st Class Irene Lu, a cyber transport systems specialist
with the 182nd Communications Flight, is a first-generation American of Chinese heritage and the only woman in her shop. She says that the more diversity
the military has, the more one person can learn about the world and learn from different experiences.
"Everyone sees things differently," Lu said. "If you just cut off one viewpoint altogether, you're missing so much. You don't know what's on that other end."
Lu is part of the 19.7% of women, as well as one of the 2,900 Asian Airmen, that make up the Air National Guard, according to a 2014 report on military community demographics.
Tech. Sgt. Jose A. Ruiz is a crew chief who's cross-training to become a C-130 flight engineer
with the 169th Airlift Squadron. He is a first-generation American of Mexican heritage, and is part of the 10.6% of Hispanic or Latino reserve Airmen.
Ruiz said that a good thing about diversity in the military is that it allows everyone to experience the differences between cultures and backgrounds.
"The way I believe the military encourages diversity is that they've been pretty open [with the public] to promote that we're open to all backgrounds, all religions, all genders," Ruiz said.
Senior Airman Cailin P. Scott, one of the ANG's 9,450 black or African-American Airmen, traces his heritage to Africa, France and India. Scott, a material management specialist
with the 264th Combat Communications Squadron, said he believes diversity in the military promotes openness and the sharing of ideas.
In his experience, diversity in the military comes down to two words: "Mainly just 'trust' and that we're 'open.'"
It's not just a talking point or buzzword for the Airmen of the Illinois Air National Guard's 182nd Airlift Wing
. Diversity is something they live every day in the workplace.
From the first African-American pilot
to the first female wing commander
, diversity in the Air National Guard is a concept that unifies and empowers Airmen to be the most equipped force of air power. Diversity takes what makes everyone different and creates versatile unity.
These Airmen's ideals and those of others resonate with leadership.
Col. William Robertson, the commander of the 182nd Airlift Wing, said his wing has always embraced diversity because it is the "American Way," and recruiting and retaining the best Airmen ensures the wing's state and federal missions are accomplished.
"We believe that no matter what an individual's race, color or creed and who wears the uniform that they must rise to the challenge of effectively coming together as Americans and performing the mission," Robertson said. "'E Pluribus Unum' means 'Out of Many, One.' Our first-class Airmen represent the community in which we live and reflect the different races, ethnicities, genders and beliefs. Diversity is built into our DNA as Americans. It is an absolute must and a proven choice for the warfight. Together we are unstoppable!"