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Minnesota National Guard
Minnesota Adjutant General convenes first junior diversity council

Junior Diversity Council ST. PAUL, Minn. - Maj. Gen. Richard C. Nash, Minnesota National Guard Adjutant General, met with more than 20 junior enlisted Soldiers and junior officers from units across the Minnesota National Guard, March 6, 2016, in St. Paul, to discuss issues and trends in diversity from the perspective of those who are newer to the organization.

"It's really important that we're here today because we are the future of the Army and if there's going to be change made, it's going to start with us," said Spc. Kiara Stapleton with Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 347th Regional Support Group. "We need to be the changes that we want to see in the Army."

In an effort to get candid feedback that others aren't always willing to give to those in charge, the Adjutant General is initiating a quarterly dialogue with a group that doesn't always have the opportunity to have their voices heard.

"You don't really always get to hear the junior side of anything, you might hear it come from a sergeant or a higher ranking standpoint, but sometimes they'll put in their opinion. Here you're just going to hear it from us, how we feel it is," said Spc. Indira Valerio from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 34th Infantry Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion. "In my position sometimes you see things that the higher ups don't see and that the NCOs won't mention."

One of Nash's top six organizational priorities is diversity of the force. In 2011, 7.8 percent of Service members in the Minnesota National Guard were from diverse ethnicities. In four years, the Minnesota National Guard nearly doubled that to 14.3 percent in 2015 by increasing recruiting efforts and promotion retention.

"In the Minnesota National Guard we need to look like those we're going to lead," said Nash. "The demographics are changing as you all know, I think faster than people anticipate or realize. Either we're going to embrace change, embrace inclusion, and embrace opportunities or they're just going to happen. We need to be out in front of that and provide those opportunities early on to have those communities be reflected in our ranks."

To carry on that positive trend, the Minnesota National Guard continues to build relationships in the community to recruit candidates of racial, ethnic and gender diversity backgrounds.

"One of the issues that you see certainly across the country now, primarily in the law enforcement area, is the friction that exists in communities because they don't feel represented in those that are in positions of authority," said Nash. "I don't want that to happen in Minnesota."

Although the Minnesota National Guard has recently had more success in recruiting diverse individuals - with 27 percent of new Minnesota Army National Guard recruits in 2015 being from diverse populations - the organization still struggles to retain those individuals as they move up through the organization.

"I'd like to get your ideas today about how we get young men and women like you to the mid-ranks and to the senior ranks, because we always seem to have an issue of building to that level," said Nash.

In addition to recruiting and retaining individuals from diverse backgrounds, the Minnesota National Guard is also working to incorporate women into positions that were previously closed to them after the Department of Defense lifted all gender-based restrictions on military service earlier this year.

"I've never once told any of our leadership that it's about quotas or numbers, it's all about opportunities, as many as we can provide, in our organization," said Nash.

March 7, 2016
by Master Sgt. Blair Heusdens
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs

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