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Story by Spc. Brett Hornback, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
FRANKFORT, Ky. - Equal Opportunity Representatives from units across the state participated in the Kentucky National Guard's first ever statewide diversity and implicit bias training course the week of July 20.
The Kentucky National Guard is taking steps to unify its members
through education and inclusivity.
Pastor Edward L. Palmer Sr. with The Sign of the Dove Church in Radcliff, Ky., led the training.
Pastor Palmer is a former Army
Infantryman and a certified diversity trainer who has worked with
leaders in the executive and legislative branches of the Kentucky state
government. By informing others of cultural topics such as cultural competence
and implicit bias, Pastor Palmer has helped facilitate conversations that led
others to gain a greater understanding of the underlying issues of
The Kentucky National Guard believes eradicating the issue
of racism within its ranks will require leaders to designate times in which
Soldiers are encouraged to learn and discuss cultural factors that can and have
led to discrimination.
“Starting the dialogue is the first step, so we can take on the
issue of racism in the same context that we do any other leadership challenge,”
said Kentucky Air National Guard Chief of Staff, Brig. Gen. Charles M. Walker.
The diversity training provided leaders in the Kentucky National
Guard with the education needed to participate in these dialogues. One of the
main concepts taught in the training is the idea of implicit bias.
According to Pastor Palmer, implicit bias refers to assumptions or
stereotypes that go unnoticed in one’s thought life. These assumptions
oftentimes unconsciously affect the way an individual treats another person whose
culture is different from their own.
Palmer encouraged those present in the training to split into
groups and answer a series of questions using their individual experience
within their culture. He asked questions like ‘who was served first at supper
in your family?’ and ‘what traditions and celebrations did your family practice
during the birth of a child?’ Palmer began conversations about various
ways of life among the soldiers in the National Guard and made them aware
of the dangers of implicit bias.
“Our own culture could create a barrier to gaining understanding,
and a tolerance of others whose culture differs from ours,” said Palmer.
Palmer says when cultural barriers are maintained and an
individual refuses to understand someone else’s culture, a cultural collision
is created. These collisions are at the core of racist
However, not all misunderstandings between people of different
cultures is intentional. Implicit bias goes undetected by many. This is why the
leaders of the KYNG have sought to protect and unify all Guardsmen
As diversity training and open dialogues are encouraged among Soldiers,
leaders anticipate a steady shift into a different atmosphere within the
Kentucky National Guard, one of unity not despite but because of diversity.
“Acknowledging and understanding all these things are part of the
responsibility of leaders, to appreciate not just the cultural aspects but
interacting in a way that can make everyone a part of the team,” said Walker.
Soldiers present at the diversity training were challenged to
emulate the training within their respective units.
“After he training we received from Pastor
Palmer, I couldn't wait to start working with my fellow EO professionals
throughout the state to create a similar dynamic and interactive training that will
give our Soldiers and Airmen the vocabulary, the facts and the platform to talk
with each other and their loved ones about the issues our country, and in
extension our organization, are facing right now,” said Sgt. 1st Class
Rebecca Wood with the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.
With the strategic education of diversity training, Kentucky
Guardsmen will be better equipped to recognize and fight the enemy of racism. The future
of the Kentucky National Guard is secure in the hope of unity and diversity. We
are better together.
“We can't change what happened in the past but we can change the
dialogue now and create a better future," said Wood.