MILFORD, Mass. –The Massachusetts National Guard received the 2009 National Guard Bureau Excellence in Diversity Award for Joint State/Territory during the National Diversity Conference awards luncheon at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta, Ga., March 11, 2010.
Army Maj. Gen. Joseph C. Carter, The Adjutant General, Massachusetts National Guard, and Thomas Desmond, State Diversity Initiative Coordinator, accepted the award on behalf of the Massachusetts Federal Diversity Committee.
State Diversity Programs are reviewed annually considering a variety of program criteria for implementing diversity within their respective state. Some things considered were joint collaboration, creation and implementation of a strategic plan with evidence of partnerships in diversity initiatives between military and civilian communities. Other criteria evaluated were joint senior leader endorsement and support, documentation of growth in diversity and under-represented groups as well as retention strength from prior year to present spanning a full year.
With a long history of diversity initiatives combined with a robust Diversity Strategic Plan, a pro-active Federal Diversity Group and Carter’s Senior Leader Diversity Memorandum of Understanding, Massachusetts demonstrated a pattern that diversity is a readiness imperative within the Massachusetts National Guard.
Some noteworthy events cited in the Massachusetts award package were that the Massachusetts National Guard became one of the first governmental agencies to become a signatory of Commonwealth Compact and became a participant in Gov. Deval Patrick’s New Americans Agenda, a comprehensive study of immigrant integration in the Commonwealth in 2009.
The Massachusetts National Guard established a Community Outreach Working Group to plan and execute community related events in coordination with units and their armories and wings throughout the state. Made up of representatives from Staff Directorates, Recruiting and Retention, Public Affairs and Army subordinate commands and Air Wings, the group met quarterly to plan community events, receive community outreach training and identify areas of interest for optimum interaction with our communities.
To further increase interaction with its communities, the Massachusetts National Guard established the Adjutant General’s Community Advisory Council. Composed of members of the minority community, the advisory council met quarterly to provide insights and information on reaching out to minority communities. Membership has been designed to maximize opportunities for reaching out to underserved minority groups as reflected in annual demographic surveys.
A recent example of an impact of this kind took place following the devastating earthquake in Haiti earlier this year. “To date, the most meaningful event to me was our participation in the Haitian earthquake support meeting held at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross after the earthquake. The fact that the National Guard was present as a supportive group meant a lot to the Haitian community,” Desmond said.
The Massachusetts National Guard has partnered with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) in an effort to further streamline the process for Soldiers and Airmen. Under this partnership, the Massachusetts National Guard coordinates with representatives from USCIS and conducts a “one stop shop” style processing of citizenship applications for our personnel at its Joint Force Headquarters in Milford.
Desmond described how partnering with the agency has had a dramatic impact on the lives of many Guardsmen saying, “The USCIS has been extremely supportive of our efforts to grant citizenship to our Soldiers and Airmen. They have gone out of their way to assist us in expediting some of our cases. To date, we have had more than 200 Soldiers and Airmen receive their citizenship as a result of the fast track program!”
Expressing some of his goals for the future Desmond said, “I would like to see us reach out to some of the under-represented groups here in Massachusetts. The Hispanic and Asian communities in the Lowell, Lawrence, Methuen communities come to mind. We are also planning a major diversity/unity day event for next year that will encompass all of the ethnic groups that make the Massachusetts National Guard the great organization that it is.”