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NEWS | July 8, 2023

Celebrating Our Differences Together

By Airman 1st Class Olivia Bithell

Joint Base Langley-Eustis celebrated its 2nd annual Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility summer expo hosted by the Breaking Barriers Alliance on June 30, 2023.

The expo opened with various booths showcasing JBLE’s helping agencies along with activities to inspire positivity, growth and community, highlighting this year’s theme of “Cultivating Brave Spaces.”

Along with spreading knowledge, expo attendees were treated to many different cultural acts and performances inspiring them to participate in new experiences.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Melody Sirl, 633d Wing Staff Agency occupational safety technician established the DEIA summer expo last year to foster togetherness and help Airmen and Soldiers from across the joint base to build lasting connections with each other.

“I am originally from Hawaii and we’re all about ‘Aloha’ and coming together. In the military I have seen a lack of the gathering that was instilled in me as I grew up” Sirl said. “My biggest goal is to see more ‘Aloha’ in the military, rather than a clock-in and out mentality.”

According to Sirl, the intent of the expo is to double each year and incorporate more members of the JBLE community to partake and learn about others in a safe and fun environment.

Sirl stated, “this year we had 27 vendors and really focused on critical conversations. We want to increase awareness and expose people to different topics and new ideas they don’t normally hear about in their day-to-day workplaces.”

For U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Scott Vault, Air Combat Command A6 expeditionary communications program manager, the expo illustrates the growth of the Air Force as a whole.

“The implementation of guidance to remove certain sociodemographic information from our work environment, showcases how incorporating DEIA aids Air Force operations” said Vault. “The link of course is when people feel valued, then they are more likely to perform at higher standards.”

For Vault, the expo creates a safe space for curiosity and growth, with long-lasting effects that will trickle down for future generations to come and establish a work environment where everyone can perform at their highest level, whilst feeling safe.

“My children are my inspiration and I want to know they will inherit a society that champions their voice and curiosity over judgement” stated Vault. “DEIA matters in this regard, so we cannot sit on the sidelines. It is up to everyone.”