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Minnesota National Guard
Local leaders help Minnesota Soldiers celebrate diversity

Minnesota National Guard ST PAUL, Minn- Former Service members and current faith leaders Reverend Arthur Day and Bishop Dan Williams spent some time with 34th Combat Aviation Brigade Soldiers discussing their military, religious and political careers as African Americans at Army Aviation Support Facility #1, St Paul, Feb 1, 2014

Williams, a former Navy Service member who grew up in Alabama and Detroit, and Day, a former Army Soldier who has lived his whole life in Minnesota, sat facing a room full of 34th CAB Soldiers, including brigade commander Col Greg Thingvold, and began the visit by answering a question from Lt. Col. Jeff Merricks

"Can you tell us about the barriers you faced while serving as African Americans in our Armed Forces?" Merricks asked

"My technical answer would be none," Williams said "There was not a barrier, which is defined as a systematic attempt to hold one back However, there were individuals that did not want to deal with different races or regions"

"I never experienced racism from my superiors," Day said "But I did see it in individuals that didn't realize civilization had changed But I saw racism more from civilians than I did from my fellow Service members"

After hearing about both Williams and Day's military experiences, Merricks solicited advice on what leadership skills CAB Soldiers might glean from the two respected faith leaders

"A good leader has to become an exceptional follower," Williams said "Let your subordinates see your authority, but also let them see you can practice what you preach"

"Good leaders shouldn't be friends with subordinates," Day said "But you can be friendly"

After the hour-long question-and-answer session, Williams and Day remained to talk one-on-one with CAB members who stuck around to express their appreciation for the visit Thingvold waited for each Soldier to finish before presenting Williams and Day with a coin and his own special thanks

"We certainly appreciate the time you spent sharing your stories," Thingvold said "I believe our team will become better for it"

Williams and Day were invited to attend the CAB's winter drill to promote awareness and offer insight as the Minnesota National Guard celebrates Black History Month and strives to continually value diversity in the military

March 5, 2014
by Staff Sgt Patrick Loch
34th Infantry Division Public Affairs

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