Columbus brings the HEAT

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Javier Cruz
  • 14th Flying Training Wing

The 14th Flying Training Wing adopted a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion program in 2022 to focus on removing barriers faced by the Hispanic service member communities, known as the Hispanic Empowerment and Advancement Team (HEAT).

HEAT is a specialized Department of the Air Force, Barrier Analysis Working Group (DAFBAWG) program established in 2008 and specifically addresses active or potential barriers to equal employment opportunities and career development across the total force.

“The goal locally and globally is to break cultural barriers by finding solutions for the critical lines of effort,” said Staff Sgt. Chad W. Lawrence, 14th Security Forces Squadron, NCOIC Standardization and Evaluations. “Overcoming language barriers, focusing on education, awareness, recruitment, mentorship, retention and professional development are all priorities.”

According to an article from the Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs, Air Force News Service in 2001, as of 2020, 15.6% of the then 329,839 active-duty Air Force members are of Hispanic or Latino descent. Research data at the time forecasted that Hispanics were among the fastest growing populations in the United States and made up half the population growth since 2010.

“It is important to have a flexible and diverse total force because diversity adds value to our team’s ability to contribute and work together,” said Lawrence. “Diversity and inclusiveness in our total forces are essential for motivation, cohesion, and readiness. Sometimes all it takes is for our newest and brightest generation of Airmen is to see someone who shares a similar walk of life with them, carries the same accent of speech, and shares the same ethical culture to feel like they’re still at home.”

The program aligns directly with prior Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Q. Brown Jr.’s Action Orders to Accelerate Change or Lose. HEAT is an Air Force wide program with a centralized digital space for members to collaborate, share information, participate in activities such as mentorship, career development, community building and networking.

“The response to HEAT here at Columbus has been to bring awareness to our community, show them that anyone can make a difference or change, and welcome them to a piece of family here at Columbus AFB,” said Lawrence. “It’s welcoming to all cultures and not just Hispanics.”

During the HEAT-sponsored Hispanic Heritage special observance event, Col. Pedro Matos, 14th Mission Support Group commander, presided as the guest speaker.

“My ask for all of you is that I want you to accept, support and empower your Airmen so they can reach their full potential,” said Matos. “We want Airmen to feel accepted for who they are…we want our Airmen to have communities and careers that make them feel valued.”

HEAT is open to any Department of the Air Force member regardless of rank, status, or ethnicity. For more information, visit the official HEAT Air Force Portal page here and the official Facebook group page here.