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Why diversity is a key to success in the Air National Guard

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Irene Lu, a cyber transport systems specialist with the 182nd Communications Flight, Illinois Air National Guard, explains how a network patch panel operates in Peoria, Ill., April 30, 2016. Lu, a first-generation American of Chinese heritage and the only female in her shop, said that the more diversity the military has, the more one person can learn about the world and learn from different experiences. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Lealan Buehrer)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Irene Lu, a cyber transport systems specialist with the 182nd Communications Flight, Illinois Air National Guard, explains how a network patch panel operates in Peoria, Ill., April 30, 2016. Lu, a first-generation American of Chinese heritage and the only female in her shop, said that the more diversity the military has, the more one person can learn about the world and learn from different experiences. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Lealan Buehrer)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Cailin P. Scott, a material management specialist with the 264th Combat Communications Squadron, Illinois Air National Guard, examines fire extinguisher inspection dates in Peoria, Ill., April 30, 2016. Scott, who traces heritage to Africa, France, and India, said he believes diversity in the military promotes openness and the sharing of ideas. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Lealan Buehrer)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Cailin P. Scott, a material management specialist with the 264th Combat Communications Squadron, Illinois Air National Guard, examines fire extinguisher inspection dates in Peoria, Ill., April 30, 2016. Scott, who traces heritage to Africa, France, and India, said he believes diversity in the military promotes openness and the sharing of ideas. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Lealan Buehrer)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jose A. Ruiz, a crew chief cross-training to become a C-130 flight engineer with the 169th Airlift Squadron, Illinois Air National Guard, demonstrates the different settings of jump lights on a C-130 Hercules aircraft in Peoria, Ill., April 30, 2016. Ruiz, a first-generation American with Mexican heritage, said a good thing about diversity in the military is that it allows everyone to experience the differences between cultures and backgrounds. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Lealan Buehrer)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jose A. Ruiz, a crew chief cross-training to become a C-130 flight engineer with the 169th Airlift Squadron, Illinois Air National Guard, demonstrates the different settings of jump lights on a C-130 Hercules aircraft in Peoria, Ill., April 30, 2016. Ruiz, a first-generation American with Mexican heritage, said a good thing about diversity in the military is that it allows everyone to experience the differences between cultures and backgrounds. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Lealan Buehrer)

PEORIA, Ill. -- U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Irene Lu, a cyber transport systems specialist with the 182nd Communications Flight, Illinois Air National Guard, poses with a voice patch panel in Peoria, Ill., April 30, 2016. Lu, a first-generation American of Chinese heritage and the only female in her shop, said that the more diversity the military has, the more one person can learn about the world and learn from different experiences. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Lealan Buehrer)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.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jose A. Ruiz, a crew chief cross-training to become a C-130 flight engineer with the 169th Airlift Squadron, Illinois Air National Guard, poses for a portrait in Peoria, Ill., April 30, 2016. Ruiz, a first-generation American with Mexican heritage, said a good thing about diversity in the military is that it allows everyone to experience the differences between cultures and backgrounds. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Lealan Buehrer)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.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Cailin P. Scott, a material management specialist with the 264th Combat Communications Squadron, Illinois Air National Guard, poses for a portrait in his storage area in Peoria, Ill., April 30, 2016. Scott, who traces heritage to Africa, France, and India, said he believes diversity in the military promotes openness and the sharing of ideas. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Lealan Buehrer)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!"