Leadership creates safe space for honest conversation

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Katrina M. Brisbin
  • Headquarters Air Reserve Personnel Center

Author BrenĂ© Brown once stated that “You can’t get to courage without rumbling through vulnerability.” Headquarters Air Reserve Personnel Center teammates took a moment to push through vulnerability and have a tough conversation. The subject: race. 

Over the last days, weeks, months and years, its undeniable that racial tensions have heightened, in part fueled by national events and media coverage. To bring everyone together and create a moment for members to express their thoughts, HQ ARPC Command Chief, Chief Master Sgt. Billie Baber, and HQ ARPC First Sergeant, Senior Master Sgt. Tony Peel, hosted two safe space conversations. 

“We have all just experienced a trauma,” said Baber. “This is not a campaign to change anyone’s position. Everyone has a voice and we’re here to make sure everyone is heard with the respect and dignity that each of us deserves.” 

The video based gathering allowed members to take a moment to have a honest conversation of what they have been feeling and what they have experienced in the past. The diverse group of participants took the time to share personal stories in order to paint a picture of what their experience with race has been.

“I had no idea that so many of my ARPC colleagues had experienced racism up close,” said Mark Nelson, HQ ARPC historian. “I also realized that (the phrase) ‘Black Lives Matter’ doesn’t mean only black lives matter or that all lives don’t matter.”

They also took a moment to discuss current events and how they impact in their hearts and homes. 

“I’m glad that we have this platform,” said Staff Sgt. Breshay Strong, HQ ARPC retirements technician. “These things are happening and we can’t turn a blind eye to it. I hope that everyone is on the same page as far as knowing that something is wrong and something needs to be fixed. I think that with this generation we can make a change.”

The overall goal of the event was to provide a safe place for HQ ARPC members to share experiences and get a better understanding of how people were feeling and what they were thinking as a center.  

“I believe acknowledgement is the first step.,” said Senior Master Sgt. Pourshia Chambers-Motley, HQ ARPC classification and IR training branch chief. “There has to be first acknowledgement that there is a problem, acknowledgement that there are people affected by the problem. Don’t discount anyone’s experience, don’t be defensive, be supportive. Listen to learn.”

These conversations are just the start of the center’s efforts to create a culture shift within the organization. 

“I have challenged the people of ARPC to think outside the box,” said Baber. “My vision is to make diversity and inclusion a part of our continuous professional development. Learning and understanding each other’s individual experiences on a continual basis will only help us be better supervisors, better leaders and just better human beings.”