By Shane Klestinski, Associate Editor

 

Members of Team Orlando military organizations celebrated Diversity Day at the Naval Support Agency (NSA) Orlando campus, April 3.

 

The NSA campus has a long history of supporting diversity in its workforce. Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD) archives indicate that the first Diversity Day occurred as far back as 2002, according to Tommy Shird, NAWCTSD equal opportunity specialist who was the event’s lead organizer. Shird said it has been an annual event in most of the years since then, with a few exceptions, such as 2020 through 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

To emphasize the significance of Diversity Day 2024, senior leaders addressed the importance of diversity and inclusion to the participants, whose work supports warfighters around the globe. Retired Army Col. Karen D. H. Saunders, chief of U.S. Army Program Executive Office Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI), helped set the context at the beginning of the event by commenting on the significant changes in the U.S. military she has seen since she began her service in uniform, specifically noting the inclusion of LGBTQ service members and expanded opportunities for women.

 

“I came into the military when women only played in support roles,” Saunders said. “Now, women can serve in every combat role, and I know three females who have successfully graduated from Ranger School. The transformation the Defense Department has gone through is really attributed to a few brave men and women who have fought to change the way we do business… and diversity, equity and inclusion programs are critical to building trust and achieving overall readiness and mission accomplishment across our joint force.”

 

Planning for this year’s Diversity Day begin in late December 2023, shortly after Christmas, in a collaborative effort between PEO STRI, NAWCTSD, and the Marine Corps’ Program Manager Training Systems. In the months leading up to the day of execution, organizers held regular meetings to refine and finalize the event, which was originally supposed to occur outside in Warfighter Park, but threats of inclement weather required a “plan B” change of venue to the de Florez Building.

 

This year’s theme, “Team Orlando’s Got Diverse Talent,” featured a talent show of Team Orlando members showcasing skills they don’t usually get to share during a normal workday. The show spotlighted not-so-obvious abilities as varied as singing, dancing, playing musical instruments, and reciting all 50 states in alphabetical order in less than 20 seconds. (Less than 19 seconds, actually.)

 

“We’re the experts in how to build a great team and an effective organization – and diversity is a huge part of that,” said Navy Capt. Tim James, NAWCTSD and NSA Orlando commander. “You can’t perform your best if you don’t feel like you can even be yourself. Showing that we value that enough to do something like [Diversity Day] in the middle of the workday makes people feel more of that family/teaming environment to bring out the best in themselves.”

 

While the de Florez multipurpose room was the site of the talent show, a raffle drawing, and food for attendees, another nearby room featured snacks and cultural information at booths staffed by diversity action teams, which included various backgrounds of those who comprise Team Orlando.

 

John Meyers, NAWCTSD’s executive director, said that Diversity Day’s goal was to “celebrate everybody.” Meyers explained that people getting to know each other and understanding their different experiences and backgrounds, helps them to do their jobs faster and more efficiently in ways that better support the mission of getting quality products to customers and getting them home safely.

 

Leshay Bernstein, logistics management specialist and Diversity Day co-emcee, said the talent show provided examples of individual diversity beyond the confines of any culture, which contributes to achieving organizational goals.

 

“What we saw in the show were [representations] of different talents that our team members bring to the table every day,” Bernstein said. “For me, that’s what this day is all about: It’s being able to celebrate who we are. It’s those kinds of talents that make us who we are at our core and able to support the mission.”

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