AF provides equal opportunity and treatment for all members
By Staff Sgt. Robin Drake
Sexual harassment, racial slurs and religious hatred are issues most people avoid at all costs. However, one office on base deals with handling those specific problems on a daily basis. The Military Equal Opportunity office, located at 6th Air Mobility Wing Headquarters, has a team of qualified staff members ready to assist individuals who feel they are experiencing unlawful discrimination or sexual harassment, on or off base.
The MEO program's primary objective is to promote an environment free from personal, social or institutional barriers, resulting in the improvement of mission effectiveness.
Neither the Department of Defense nor Air Force policy condones or tolerates discrimination or harassment within the Armed Forces or in the civilian workforce.
"The wing commander's local policy at MacDill is 'zero tolerance'," said Senior Master Sgt. Bryan L. Osborne, chief of MEO. "Disciplinary actions will be taken against violators and personnel issues will be addressed."
Active duty, reserve and guard members, as well as family members and retirees may utilize the services provided by MEO.
Unlawful discrimination is any action taken that unlawfully or unjustly results in unequal treatment of persons or groups. This includes discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, color or religion. Also included is an individual's birthplace, ancestry, culture or language.
In addition to unlawful discrimination, sexual harassment cases are handled by the MEO staff.
"Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that involves unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature," according to the 6th AMW MEO pamphlet.
MEO personnel encourage individuals to use their chain of command to identify and correct the problem.
"A lack of effective communication is often found to be part of the problem. We often find that if someone in the chain of command had sat down with the parties involved, whether it is the supervisor, first sergeant or commander, that most situations could have been resolved at the lowest level," said Sergeant Osborne.
If an individual feels uncomfortable using their chain of command to solve an issue they may go to MEO and file an informal or formal complaint. They can be reached at 828-3333.
When a member chooses to file an informal complaint, MEO initiates a complaint clarification and notifies the individual's commander. The commander is responsible for addressing the individual's allegations and protecting them from reprisal.
"Individuals who wish to file a formal complaint do so through our office. Members bring us their allegations and we find the factual information," said Staff Sgt. Cindy Crouse, MEO technician. "We interview witnesses and the alleged offender, and review personnel records of involved parties during the clarification process."
MEO also provides Unit Climate Assessments. The UCA's are 40-question surveys administered to unit personnel six months after a change of command, every two years or when a commander requests it.
"They are designed to give the commander a snapshot of the human relations climate in their unit," said Sergeant Osborne.
MEO is also responsible for investigating Equal Opportunity and Treatment Incidents.
"An EOTI is an overt, adverse act, occurring on or off base, directed toward an individual, group or institution which is motivated by, or has overtones based on race, color, national origin, religion or sex. It has the potential to have a negative impact on the installation human relations climate," according to Air Force Instruction 36-2706.
If violations of MEO policy are found, an establishment has the potential to be placed on the "off limits" list.
This restricts military members from entering or using those establishments, said Sergeant Crouse.
Additionally, the MEO staff briefs personnel on effective communication and the importance of it at Airman Leadership School, the Newcomer's Orientation, commanders' calls and the Non-commissioned Officer Professional Development course.