Intel Airmen promotes diversity of thought, wins first DE&I award

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Rachelle Morris
  • Seventh Air Force Public Affairs

The 694th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group recently announced their first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) quarterly award winner.

Tech. Sgt. Justin Simpson, 303rd Intelligence Squadron (IS) talent manager, took home the win for his ground breaking work with eliminating biases in the unit’s hiring processes.

While this is a more recent venture, his passion for DE&I started when he joined the Air Force 11 years ago.

“I am from a very tiny town – Topsham, Maine,” Simpson said. “You have to zoom in a lot to see it on a map. Everyone there is about the same, so I didn’t experience a lot of diversity growing up. My first time interacting with people from all walks of life was when I joined the Air Force.”

It wasn’t until he retrained into the intelligence community, that he found an avenue to apply it practically.

“I came from a career field where DE&I was not really sought after and now that I have switched to intel, I can tell that people care more about the person,” he said. “I feel like more than an AFSC or a job - I feel like a human being.”

His new found comfort has fueled his many major accomplishments.

At the 303rd IS, Simpson ensures talent is the primary factor in selecting Airmen for positions by using fail safes to remove barriers and reduce biases. He did this by implementing diverse hiring panels and standardized interview questions.

There are checks and balances in place with score cards and mandatory feedback to provide clarity and transparency.

Additionally, Simpson facilitates monthly meetings to discuss the placement of inbound Airmen and the re-vectoring of Airmen for career-broadening positions. Those changes are based solely on applicants’ Airmen Leadership Qualities, experience, proficiency, knowledge, skills, and abilities, which are collected during the unit's talent survey.

“I like making sure the right person is in the right job,” said Simpson. “I like making sure everyone has a fair and equitable chance to advance themselves and their careers.”

He also facilitates the infusion of DE&I into the squadron's weekly professional development series taught by senior Non-Commissioned Officers.

“It is all about diversity of thought – In order to have a good organization, you need competing ideas,” Simpson said.

His word doesn’t stop there.

“Sgt. Simpson is finalizing the creation of a DE&I post-check,” said Master Sgt. James Hinton, 694th ISRG talent manager advisor. “What that allows members to do is to go into the talent marketplace and any answer DE&I related questions about the organization. It gives commanders and other senior leaders the opportunity to receive Airmen’s feedback anonymously.”

While the group is still ironing out some details, they hope the DE&I award will become an annual award as well.

“The direction was to celebrate our Airmen continuing the DE&I conversation and initiatives,” Hinton said. “It falls right in line with our DE&I strategic vision for the group.”