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MADISON, Wis. – With seven collective strokes of a pen, the Wisconsin National Guard’s Diversity Strategic Plan took effect during a May 20 ceremony in Witmer Hall at the state Department of Military Affairs.

“We’re extremely excited,” said Capt. Peter Owen, the Wisconsin National Guard’s equal employment manager. “The concepts in this plan, you’ll find, are not limited to diversity you can see. You’ll find out that it’s about leadership – it’s about capitalizing on what you have as an organization to make the organization stronger.”

The goals of the diversity strategic plan call for improving mission readiness and mission operations, developing a team of exceptional personnel drawn from – and representative of – the communities in which they serve, and building strategic engagement and community outreach. The plan includes evaluations and assessments to eliminate barriers that adversely affect recruiting, hiring, development and retention.

Brig. Gen. Gary Ebben, deputy adjutant general for Air, noted that updating the Wisconsin National Guard’s diversity strategic plan began about 18 months ago.

“This is really the culmination of that whole process,” Ebben said. “It takes a while to do that. I would say it was more than just nibbling around the edges – it’s a fairly significant redo of this particular plan.”

Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, who was an original member of the National Guard Bureau’s joint diversity advisory council, observed that Wisconsin was among the national leaders in codifying and incorporating diversity practices into daily operations.

“Not only in how we look and where we come from,” Anderson explained, “but the diversity of thought, the diversity of ideas, the diversity of experiences, and understanding how those different traits really bind an organization together and make it stronger.”

Anderson said the Wisconsin National Guard’s plan was revised, not because the original document was flawed, but to reflect the improvements within the organization.

“Wisconsin’s got a great name when it comes to diversity,” Anderson said. “They understand [at the national level] what we’re doing. We have a number of best practices here in the state that are being modeled at the national level.”

According to the Wisconsin National Guard’s Diversity Strategic Plan, not only is diversity the right philosophy, itís the organizational policy. It reflects the need to understand and respond to changing demographics, and it is a key component in fostering safe and productive work environments.

“Achieving a truly inclusive environment requires the personal commitment and support of each member of the [Wisconsin National Guard],” the document states. “While the Joint Diversity Strategic Plan provides the roadmap to ensure success, we need your support in this effort to help make certain the [Wisconsin National Guard] is the organization we envision it to be.”

Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin adjutant general, remarked that anyone who joins the Wisconsin National Guard has the opportunity to one day become the adjutant general, or the command sergeant major, or the command chief master sergeant.

“It’s just a fact,” Dunbar said. “There are no barriers. Now, let’s be clear – just because there are no barriers doesn’t mean that everybody is going to be the adjutant general, or the command chief or the command sergeant major. We all understand that. But the opportunity is there for everybody in the organization.”