One of the Coast Guard’s fundamental goals is to always, without fail, be an organization where members are treated with dignity and respect and given an equal opportunity to contribute and succeed. The Diversity and Inclusion Education and Awareness Program (DIEAP) is one initiative meant to accelerate achieving that goal.
The DIEAP is a six-month, sequential learning experience that produces diversity and inclusion change agents. Agents are composed of multidisciplinary Coast Guard personnel, throughout the country, who have earned specific knowledge and certification useful to train and coach the workforce concerning relevant diversity and inclusion matters. Agents deliver introductory, evidenced-based, two-hour and four-hour diversity and inclusion training sessions. Change agents deliver one-to-one, diversity and inclusion coaching for commanding officers, officers-in-charge, and program managers who want to embed fair, open, cooperative, supportive, and empowering behaviors within teams to build higher levels of trust and performance.
“Teams with high-levels of trust are correlated with greater ability to understand, plan, program, and fulfill mission requirements, even in the face of emerging threats. Trust is developed in empowering environments where people truly feel they belong,” said Dante' Barnes, interim program manager and technical advisor to the DIEAP, Civilian Human Resources, Diversity and Leadership.
“I help people feel safe and ready to participate in those tough conversations people need to have to overcome barriers that could impede us from being the best Coast Guard in the world,” said Chief Petty Officer Jessica Guidroz— a DIEAP certified change agent and boatswain's mate whose primary job is serving as the officer-in-charge of the Sector Key West Aids to Navigation Team.
Serving as a change agent is a collateral duty. There is at least one fully trained and credentialed change agent available to deliver training and coaching services at every district.
Guidroz expands people’s understanding of what diversity, inclusion, and equity mean through demystifying concepts such as privilege, oppression, identity, and intersectionality during group training sessions.
Change agents can also deliver one-to-one coaching sessions. Coaching is particularly useful for leaders who must model inclusive, aware, and empowering behaviors within their teams and aren’t sure how to— or might be reluctant to — explore race, ethnicity, socioeconomics, class, gender, religion, disability, current events, culture, and other topics in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space that affect team performance.
Diverse and respectful work environments— where everyone feels they belong— increases high performance and wellness, Guidroz said. On the other hand, environments that fail to integrate and empower people risk disengagement, turnover, and even mission failure, she said.
Guidroz described a recent personal conversation with service members and veterans who were impacted by the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) era when serving openly as gay or bisexual was prohibited.
“Imagine years of never being able to acknowledge your partner or share important facts about your life with your teammates because you have no way to defend yourself, your same-gender partner, and your children without potentially losing your career. Some people still struggle to trust that it’s safe to be a member of the L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. + community while serving because of the harmful, ignorant comments and behavior we experienced during Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” said Guidroz.
Guidroz explained that anyone who feels treated like “us vs. them” or experiences discrimination concerning race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomics, gender, disability, or culture is at risk of reduced capacity to perform and diminished willingness to trust. The results can be detrimental to unit cohesion and mission success.
“We have to trust our teammates and leaders. We need to know we belong and that they have our backs and we have theirs to maintain a world-class maritime military force,” said Guidroz. “The DIEAP builds confidence, cohesion, readiness, and inclusive teams and leaders worthy of our trust.”
Cultivating diverse and inclusive work environments is also about winning the perpetual contest to recruit and retain the best people, explained Hope Balamani, chief of the Coast’s Guard’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion.
“Every branch of the federal government, our sister services, corporate America, the non-profit sector, and beyond are competing for the same great minds we’re vying for. If we don’t affirm that the Coast Guard is the optimal place to serve, or if we maintain barriers impeding people from feeling they belong or prevent them from believing they have a shot at rising to the highest levels of responsibility, the best and the brightest are going to go somewhere else,” Balamani said.
Balamani added that change agents stand ready to provide resources and perspectives personnel can take back to their teams, right away, to make positive differences and measurable progress. She encourages anyone affiliated with the Coast Guard to consider requesting the services of their local change agent.
- Change agents— who are the cornerstone of the DIEAP— are certified to deliver the following:
- Two-hour and four-hour introductory diversity and inclusion sessions for groups, in person, or virtual.
One-to-one diversity and inclusion coaching for commanding officers, officers-in-charge, and program managers, in person or virtual. On a limited basis, change agents can also provide one-to-one coaching to other non-supervisory Coast Guard personnel who want to increase their self and social awareness in the diversity, inclusion, and equity space.
To request the services of a change agent, send an email to HQS-SMB-CG-127-DIEAP@uscg.mil, attention Dante' Barnes, at least 30 days in advance of the desired training or coaching date. Requests for expedited services are considered on a case-by-case basis.
Future opportunities for Coast Guard members to apply to become change agents are scheduled for 2022 and will be publicized via an ALCOAST message in the spring of 2022.
The DIEAP is aligned with the Commandant's Guiding Principles and the Coast Guard’s Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan.