MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --
On Dec. 14, 2020, a board of enlisted leaders from Maxwell Air Force Base gathered, virtually, to conduct the quarterly senior airman below-the-zone board. However, something was different: all identifying information for the candidates had been removed.
Prior to the board meeting, Staff Sgt. Alexcia Tubbs and Senior Airman Micaella Trinidad Howard proposed the idea to “sanitize” the packages by removing names, race, ethnicity, unit and gender from the packages to eliminate any subconscious bias in the scoring process.
Their idea aligns with the recently formed 42nd ABW Freedom to Serve Initiative, which aims to identify and remove barriers from Airmen’s success and promote a more inclusive force. The Freedom to Serve team acknowledged the benefit of removing personal identifiers to ensure the board was entirely merit-based.
The new board process also aligns with the Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr.’s commitment to accelerating positive change in the Air Force. In his paper, “Accelerate Change or Lose”, Brown emphasizes the importance of empowering Airmen to be innovative problem-solvers and creating an environment in which all Airmen can reach their full potential, which is exactly what Tubbs and Trinidad Howard did.
“During my 3 years of experience working BTZ boards, I feel as though this was a necessary action,” said Tubbs. “I believe it needed to take place in order to create a fair panel and remove any biases.”
Trinidad Howard also believes the new board process is crucial to securing the freedom to serve without interference of bias.
“The ultimate goal of sanitizing BTZ packages was to remove bias in the decision making,” said Trinidad Howard. “It’s our responsibility to ensure that all airmen have a fair chance of being picked.”
Chief Master Sgt. Mike Morgan, 42nd Air Base Wing command chief, was the catalyst for implementing the change in the new board process.
“The Freedom To Serve initiative is about removing barriers to allow Airmen to show up as their best selves,” said Morgan. “These barriers could be anything, not just necessarily unconscious bias towards race or gender, but they could also be housing or dormitories or our Air Force Instructions which may have outdated standards in them such as our clothing and dress and appearance AFIs.”
42nd ABW leadership aims to institute the same “sanitation” process for future boards as well.
“I really appreciate the effort that Staff Sgt. Tubbs and Senior Airman Trinidad Howard put into this in order to create a clean process that is free of any perception of unconscious bias,” Morgan said. “As the Air Force takes a look at what they can do as an enterprise level, we are seeing more that we can do locally to remove barriers to service and remove perceptions of unconscious bias in our processes.”