NEWS | Dec. 6, 2021

Message to the Force - Inclusion & Diversity

By Maj. Gen. William Crane West Virginia National Guard

Less than a year ago, I became the Adjutant General for West Virginia. In my transition, I established priorities I felt were important for our National Guard to “get after”.  These included preparing our forces for our primary mission of being warfighters, then, looking toward the future fight in the cyber realm, and, growing future leaders for our organization. As I thought about these priorities, I realized the importance of emphasizing inclusion and diversity among us and how that focus can add to the excellence of our Army and Air National Guard units in West Virginia.

In fact, I realized our National Guard is inherently diverse, a fact that contributes to our being the greatest fighting force in the world. We bring together individuals from all kinds of backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, genders, ethnicities – you name it – and teach them how to be a team. The military exposes each of us to new ideas and thinking and helps to broaden the horizons of even the most sheltered recruit (and West Virginia has some very sheltered neighborhoods!). Even so, while there are great lessons to be learned through enlistment and service in the National Guard, I was not satisfied; I can’t stand the idea that there might be some who don’t feel they can be included.

So, we started listening.

In June, we held anonymous listening sessions for everyone in the West Virginia National Guard. From those sessions, we gathered some really good feedback from the field on issues affecting them and their service, identified barriers and gained insight into perceptions of our Soldiers and Airmen. It was a great start.

We took that information and coupled it with feedback provided from the command climate surveys to develop actual things we can do to address those realities.  I made them requirements with the goal they are completed in 2022. Some of you may have heard rumblings of things that were being implemented, but I thought it important to let you know from me what we’ve been doing and what we’ve achieved thanks to your feedback.

The following list of actions, while not comprehensive, illustrates moves toward the culture I am looking for:

  • We formally established the Joint Diversity Executive Council (JDEC), which I chair as the head of the organization, to identify issues for senior leadership engagement, and, if necessary, facilitate change. The JDEC already met twice in 2021.
  • Our Army and Air National Guard policies and procedures were reviewed to maximize support for pregnant, post-partum and breastfeeding mothers.
  • Units are implementing accommodations for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers across the state. 
  • We set a requirement for unisex bathrooms in all future WVNG construction
  • We will launch an anonymous feedback line called the WVNG Feedback Line for Soldiers, Airmen and civilian employees in 2022.
  • Other programs include:
    • A deliberate plan to ensure consistent representation for minorities or underrepresented individuals on all boards. 
    • A monthly “Lunch and Learn” program to cover diverse items of interest from the field like pregnancy, sexual assault, joint officer management, equal employment, and others.
    • Babysitter training for service member’s families
    • Development of a metrics-based Officer Career Management Program aimed at eliminating unfairness and bias.
    • Formation of groups to enable mentorship and camaraderie like a WVNG women’s group, Warrant Officer’s Run with the Chiefs, Reserve Mentorship, Athletic Club, and Book Club.
    • Creation of a Diversity and Equity Officer to assist command staff with support to the State Equal Opportunity Office, Sexual Assault Response Coordinator and oversee the command climate survey program to provide analysis for senior leadership.

Representation Impacts

While plans and programs are great, results are better.  In the past year, we’ve celebrated:

  • Our first female Chief Warrant Officer 5, Christie Smith.
  • Promoted the second African American general officer, Brig. Gen. David “DC” Cochran, in WVNG history.
  • Promotion of the first West Virginia Army National Guard female general officer, Brig. Gen. Michaelle Munger.
  • An increased average female enlistment rate of 20% in five months.
  • Increased from one to three squadrons in the Air Guard with minority commanders including the first LGBT commander. 
  • Also increased female representation in the E-9 ranks from one to three

Every one of these service members earned their rank and they represent the best of the best in the West Virginia National Guard.

I hope that you see the direction we are headed – equal opportunity for all. This shows where we’re going, it is not where we stop.

I directed WVNG leaders at all levels to find where we are not inclusive and fix it; to celebrate our diversity; and, most importantly, take care of our Soldiers and Airmen so they know we care and feel included so they can work hard to accomplish the mission.

Without you, your families and our civilian employees in our One Guard, we would not be capable of tackling the problems we face as a state and nation.

Where change is needed, we must accelerate. You should share you feedback and suggestions with your senior leaders. Reach out to communicate and I promise you that we will take you seriously and work collaboratively to improve.

It is an honor to serve alongside each of you as your Adjutant General. Thank you for what you do to make this organization great each and every day. I look forward to providing you with an update on this topic and many other initiatives we have been working on in the near future.

MG William “Bill” Crane
The Adjutant General