I'm Listening

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Dann S. Carlson
  • 154th Wing

154th Wing ‘Ohana,

I hesitated to say anything about George Floyd and the protests that have sprung up across the nation because, frankly, it’s an extremely complicated and difficult topic to address. But it is also an extremely important topic. When those close to us—whether family members, acquaintances or members of our Wing—are experiencing pain, oppression or fear, silence is an unacceptable response. 

When I read the stories of George Floyd’s last moments, I am deeply troubled. I am angry at the injustice that our black community feels every day. I am sickened by the violence and destruction in neighborhoods across our nation. I am frustrated that despite how far our society has come in pursuit of equal treatment under the law, we still have so far to go for so many. And I am constantly confronted by how hard it is to see past my own experiences and truly understand how those around me are hurting. But I want to.

I’m sure that, like me, many of you have strong feelings about these events. I encourage you: talk about your perspectives. Add your voices to the conversation. Because none of us are exactly alike, none of us will see things the same as another. That’s not a shortcoming—in fact, it is a tremendous strength. It’s what makes our nation, our state, and our military strong, and it’s what we mean when we talk about diversity.

I want us to do more than talk. If there is ANY part of our Wing where you or one of your Airmen are feeling injustice, discrimination, or oppression in any form—we will fix it. I will make sure of that. But in order to fix it, I need to know about it. Contact me directly. Call me on my cell. If I’m part of the problem and you don’t want to talk to me, then talk to Col Shigekane, or Chief Orr, or the IG or MEO… but please, say something. I understand that speaking out may be uncomfortable, but we are committed to ensuring every Airman feels supported.

Last thing: Should you talk about these issues publicly, be mindful of where you are and what message you are sending. As members of the military, we are required to remain politically neutral while representing the military. That does NOT mean that you personally should be politically neutral. It means that if you chose to speak out, online, or at a rally or in an op-ed, you need to do so as a private citizen, not in uniform or in clothing that might make it seem like you are speaking for the HIANG or the Air Force. And if you are involved in a peaceful protest that stops being peaceful, it’s time to leave.

I hope and pray for healing in our nation. To get there, we need to make some changes. But before we make those changes, we need to understand each other, and for that, we need to listen.

I’m listening.


Brig. Gen. Dann S. Carlson, 154th Wing commander