Strength in Diversity

  • Published
  • By Maj. Chin T. Hsu
  • 423rd Civil Engineer Squadron

The years that I’ve spent in the Air Force has shown me that the diversity of our Airmen is one of its greatest strengths. This diversity allows us to think outside of the box and derive innovative solutions to solve the problems of both today and tomorrow. 

Growing up in a small farm town in upstate New York, I lived a childhood that was sheltered from the rest of the world. My family immigrated to the U.S. when I was just a baby. We were one of only two Asian-American families in our town and the community itself was not very diverse. 

It wasn’t until I left for college and then joined the Air Force that I truly learned about diversity. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to meet and serve with people from all walks of life. From Texans who are from small town ranches to New Yorkers from the big city, I’ve been amazed to see how people analyze situations differently and develop a varying range of solutions based on their past experiences and upbringing.

I recall a TDY to the Philippines about 10 years ago to rebuild a school. We had a dozen Air Force engineers and had purchased all new tools and supplies for the project. Our lead carpenter broke out a scientific calculator and was using trigonometry, which he learned in tech school, to determine the roof’s shape and design the trusses of the school. As we were installing the trusses, a local villager came over and told us of his concerns regarding typhoon force winds on the island and how the roof needed to be more secure. Instantly a young Airmen from Florida shouted out “hurricane straps”, which is a band of metal used to fasten the truss to the top of the wall. Had the lead carpenter and I tried to devise a way to make the building weather proof, it would have likely set us back by multiple days and thousands of dollars. The hurricane straps were a simple and low cost solution, about $50 total, and were just what we needed to ensure the facility was more resilient to local conditions. 

Having been on multiple overseas tours and deployments, I’m amazed at how our military, civilian, and contract workforce can interoperate near seamlessly despite language, cultural and other differences. We observe, teach and learn from each other by different methods and techniques that may not have come naturally. With diversity, we find best practices and more effective ways to complete our tasks and missions. I believe it is incumbent upon Airmen at every level to create an environment that fosters inclusion of different beliefs, cultures and backgrounds. 

Every Airmen has a story and a unique perspective, which adds to the greatness of our diverse and innovative Air Force.