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Air Force to merge equal opportunity organizations

by Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski
Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

8/22/2007 - WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- The military equal opportunity and equal employment opportunity offices will merge in January 2008, Air Force officials announced recently.

The combined organization will be called equal opportunity and will be a single location to handle both military and civilian EO claims and issues, said Kim Litherland, the Air Force Equal Opportunity director.

"The merger will allow us to effectively maintain both offices without a decrease in customer service quality due to recent manpower cuts," Ms. Litherland said.

Currently, the offices are separate because of the differences in procedures for civilian and military cases. Civilian counselors handle civilian equal employment opportunity issues, while Airmen trained as military equal opportunity counselors handle military issues, Ms. Litherland said.

"Now all of our people will get formal training to handle both kinds of cases," she said. "Customers shouldn't feel like their issues won't be handled by someone who knows what they're doing. Every EO professional is going through the training right now and everyone, both military and civilian, will be ready by January."

The merger will maximize the use of all available manpower on an installation or at a major command. Operating in a combined organization will afford EO experts the chance to expand prevention, education and outreach programs, which will have a "significant positive impact on EO incidents, resulting in fewer complaints," Ms. Litherland said.

In addition, it will ensure EO Airmen are trained to handle civilian issues while deployed as well, said Dwayne Walker, the MEO career field manager.

"We're one team, and we'll all be trained to handle any type of case," Mr. Walker said. "We must ensure EO is woven into all facets of our Air Force mission, even in deployed environments. Should they ever need it, Airmen will always be able to get EO assistance, whether they're in Iraq, Afghanistan or at their home station. Equal opportunity equals mission effectiveness."

By combining into a single organization, civilian EO professionals will further that effectiveness by earning the same certification their military counterparts possess.

"EO professionals who have actual certification to handle any type of case have even more credibility," Ms. Litherland said.

"Air Force leaders take equal opportunity very seriously," she said. "We want to have a diverse workforce free from unlawful discrimination and harassment with the right people for the job, regardless of race, gender or beliefs. This merger is the right thing to do and this is the right time for it. It will sustain both programs without jeopardizing the principles of either."

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