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Master Sgt. John Schumann discusses training with Master Sgt. Alexandra Hoellein, Military Equal Opportunity duty liaison during a July 25 site visit to Kirkuk Air Base, Iraq. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. LuCelia Ball
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. John Schumann
Sergeant Keeps Human Relations in Combat Zone Peaceful
By Staff Sgt. LuCelia Ball
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing
BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq, Aug. 2, 2007 — When airmen deploy to Iraq, a varied group of people live, work and eat together. The vast majority of the time, the cohabitation is peaceful. But if a human relations incident involving discrimination occurs, it's up to one noncommissioned officer to assist with the situation.

Master Sgt. John Schumann is the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing chief of Military Equal Opportunity at Balad Air Base. His job is to assist members in dealing with situations of discrimination and sexual harassment because of race, color, national origin, sex and religion, and to report to commanders the problems, practices and procedures that may adversely affect a unit.

The sergeant, deployed from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., said his job here differs from his stateside duties.

At his home station, Schumann monitors human relations by conducting Unit Climate Assessment surveys, which cover categories such as unit cohesion, motivation and morale, supervisory support, perceived discrimination and command equal opportunity policy. UCAs are not done in the area of responsibility.

Here, because of the difficulty of being able to contact some of the geographically separated units throughout Iraq, the process must be refined. So Schumann has a number of military equal opportunity support liaisons located at some of the larger GSUs to assist him.

"As liaisons, we bridge the gap between the regular MEO duties and help to get information out to the airmen," said Master Sgt. Alexandra Hoellein, an MEO liaison and the superintendent for Personnel Support for Contingency Operations for the 507th Air Expeditionary Group at Kirkuk Air Base, Iraq.

"People can come to me to get initial information for a MEO complaint, and I also brief the newcomers about the commander's equal opportunity policy."

The liaisons average about six briefings per month.

"It gets busier right at the start of a new rotation," she said.

Schumann trains the liaisons, updates MEO flyers and makes sure the commander's policy is understood by all airmen assigned to the area of responsibility.

"A commander's policy is basically the same as the Air Force equal opportunity policy, but it emphasizes that airmen are in a combat environment," Schumann said. "The tone of the policy encourages airmen to solve a problem at the lowest level and use their chain of command to resolve a problem."

Schumann mainly spends his time visiting airmen in their units, informally speaking to them about their unit and how they feel about it.

"After the unit visit, I'll brief unit commanders to let them know how (the unit climate is) doing," he said.

While at Kirkuk, Schumann visited a few units and also met members of the fire department at the 507th AEG.

"We're trying to take a very proactive approach to human relations in the (area of responsibility)," he said. "Here, we try to make contact with a commander within one day of an incident. The stressors in the AOR are high, and we want to keep the climate as stress-free as possible."

If an incident occurs, airmen in the AOR can rest assured that Schumann will be there to mediate the problem and keep the peace.

Last Updated:
08/02/2007, Eastern Daylight Time
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