120th Fighter Wing on Forefront of Diversity
By Chief Master Sgt. Laurie Fox, JFHQ-MT
/ Published May 18, 2011
GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- The Montana Chapter AX, Philanthropist Educational Organization (PEO) recently visited the Montana Air National Guard and received an overview of the guard's mission highlighting its diversity.
The PEO is a professional education organization whose goal is to assist women in achieving higher education though support, scholarships, grants and loans. They have provided educational opportunities for over 85,000 women since being established in Iowa in 1869. They currently have a quarter million members in the United States and Canada. To date, PEO has awarded Educational Loan Fund dollars totaling more than $125 million, International Peace Scholarships are more than $25 million, Program for Continuing Education grants are more than $35 million, Scholar Awards are more than $12 million and PEO STAR Scholarships are $640,000. (Source: http://www.peointernational.org/about-peo)
One member of the PEO group is Norma Ashby, former hostess of KRTV's very first daily show, "Today in Montana". An early 1970's picture of Ms. Ashby conducting an interview with former female guard members sparked a conversation of how the diversity of the MTANG has changed over the years. Not long ago there were few female members in the unit, and they all held what was at one time considered traditional female office jobs.
A MTANG goal is to increase the diversity of their workforce. All career fields are open to all groups. For example, unlike other military branches, the Air National Guard does not limit women to certain jobs and deny them access to others. Females are represented in all echelons of the rank structure in the MTANG, including the senior enlisted rank of command chief master sergeant, squadron commanders and supervisors and first sergeant positions.
Today's MTANG is made up of over 22 percent females and the percentage is rising. "We have female aircraft maintainers, combat correspondents, attorneys, security police officers and an F-15 fighter pilot," said the commander of the 120th Fighter Wing, Col. Pete Hronek.
To increase diversity, the special emphasis program was established to review personnel policies, processes and practices to identify barriers to hiring and advancement of underrepresented groups and recommend corrective action. A diversity council is also working to increase awareness and educate members how to leverage member differences to excel in all aspects of the job.
Ending their visit, the PEO group had a tour of the base to include the Hush House. The group witnessed an F-15 jet engine on a test stand operating at full power and afterburner. The group was left with the request to spread the word of the opportunities available at the Montana Air National Guard.