AFIMSC working groups target workplace inclusion barriers

  • Published
  • By Sarah McNair
  • AFIMSC Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- The Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center is promoting workforce diversity through established working groups tasked to identify and eliminate any barriers impeding an inclusive and equitable working environment.

AFIMSC’s Diversity and Inclusion Council recently established nine Center Barrier Analysis Working Groups, or C-BAWGs, and eight Member Employee Resource Groups, or MERGs, to evaluate barriers and promote diversity throughout the organization. More than 50 AFIMSC volunteers have established the groups, including two senior leadership champions who provide overarching governance and support.

“This initiative is an integral component to drive positive movement in DEIA and will enable us to capitalize on the extraordinary resources of our people,” said AFIMSC Financial Management Director Melissa Blakesly, who is the champion for C-BAWGS. “When we eliminate barriers, our workforce is stronger and AFIMSC can deliver installation and mission support to DAF more effectively and efficiently.”

The BAWG teams are: Black/African American Employment Strategy; Disability Action; Indigenous Nations Equality; Hispanic Empowerment & Action; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Initiatives; Pacific Islander/Asian American Community; Women’s Initiatives; and Civilian Personnel Action Analysis. The C-BAWGs identify barriers in areas such as workforce development, retention and advancement. With a focus on inclusion, the groups use data to identify issues and root causes to develop possible solutions. Improvement recommendations are also shared with the Department of the Air Force, major command and installation level BAWGs.

Identification of workplace barriers requires thorough examination of all circumstances and is vital in such a fast-changing multicultural environment,” said Sharita Figueroa, AFIMSC’s chief diversity and inclusion officer. “Not only do these groups support AFIMSC, but our BAWGs and MERGs also serve as a strategic bridge of communication throughout the Department of the Air Force.”

Trevor Townsend, Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness Analysis and accountant in the Financial Management Directorate, said it’s an honor to be part of the Disability Action Team, knowing he can make a difference through simple improvements.

“I strive to make sure I and other disabled people have a barrier-free work environment,” he said. “From small things such as encouraging able-bodied people to be mindful of not dripping water on the bathroom floor, which could cause a slip hazard for those on crutches, to making sure all automatic doors are working and there is sensible desk placement for those with disabilities in the event of an emergency or evacuation.”

MERGs then use the recommendations to bring attention to important Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility related issues, establish programs and activities to provide employees opportunities to develop and grow and give managers access to innovative concepts and unique solutions. AFIMSC has nine MERGs: Women’s Initiatives; Disability Action; Hispanic Empowerment & Action; Black/African American Employment Strategy; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Initiatives; Indigenous Nations Equality; Pacific Islander/Asian American; Intergenerational; and Spouses Supporting Spouses.

MERGs actively support the work of C-BAWGs through continual learning to advance the understanding and inclusion of employees with common interests, backgrounds and goals.

Charles Hendricks, Financial Operations chief in the Financial Management Directorate, said he took on the role of Special Emphasis Program Manager for the Black/African American Employment Strategic Team because he has a passion for people and a drive to ensure that all Airmen, Guardians and civilians have an equal opportunity to realize their full potential and achieve their career goals.

“It is our mission to promote awareness and understanding of diversity through leadership awareness, dissemination of information, recognition, professional development, networking opportunities and events,” Hendricks said. “We’ve begun gathering input from the Black-African American workforce on the barriers to promotion, training and assignments for advisement and to determine courses of action.”

While BAWGs function as a resource to identify and provide solutions to eliminate roadblocks of inclusiveness, MERGs provide the opportunities to accelerate change through action.

“When MERGs are established, team members become more engaged, connected and empowered through opportunities to develop and grow,” Figueroa said. “These groups will benefit an estimated 4,032 AFIMSC team members by creating a wholesome, inclusive and diverse environment.”

Individuals who want to get involved or groups seeking official recognition as a MERG can reach the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at