Theus, Brig. Gen. Lucius. "Air Force Regulation 30-1: Race Relations in the U.S.
Air Force." Commander's Digest. Vol. 13, no. 4. Washington, D.C.: GPO,
November 30, 1972. P. 10-11.
SuDoc No.: D2.15/2
Air Force Regulation 30-1, the Air Force's equal opportunity regulation, is the focus of
this article. Discussed are the various Air Force educational initiatives and some of
Air Force Regulation 30-1: Race Relations In The U.S. Air Force
Brig. Gen. Lucius Theus, USAF
Special Assistant for Social Actions, Deputy Chief of Staff (Personnel)
The fundamental Air Force policy with respect to discrimination is Air Force Regulation 30-1,
"Air Force Standards," which says:
"Commanders will conduct Air Force affairs without regard to race, color, religion,
national origin, or sex, consistent with physical capabilities of members. Discrimination
– by act or by inference – against military personnel or their dependents, on or
off base, will not be tolerated. Personnel who cannot practice this standard are not fit
to command or supervise."
The directive is the benchmark for all other Air Force equal opportunity and treatment directives.
While no cause and effect relationship can be proved, it is significant that since publication
of this regulation approximately a year ago, racial harmony in the Air Force has improved.
In the Air Force, Equal Opportunity functions under the social actions concept. The Social
Actions Office contains the program elements of drug and alcohol abuse, race relations
education, and equal opportunity. A conceptual intent of the program is that there be no
intervening layers between social actions personnel and the senior installation commander.
Race relations education is separate and distinct from equal opportunity, and different
personnel man each program element. The race relations instructor is considered solely an
educator. As the Air Force views it, equal opportunity and treatment efforts are geared
toward individual grievance resolution. These grievances would center normally, but not
exclusively, around factors related to race, color, culture, national origin, religion, or sex.
Activity in this area is immediate and short-range. On the other hand, the education effort
is long-range and recurring.
The individual is afforded various routes or avenues for airing grievances and for seeking
redress. Ideally, the Air Force wants these problems solved within the chain of command.
The equal opportunity officer, in fact, works with the chain of command or aids movement of
a problem through the chain. However, if the problem cannot be solved successfully within
a unit, the Air Force equal opportunity officer can then bring the matter to the attention of
the senior commander.
The primary vehicle used for dissemination of policy and procedures to the field is the Air
Force Social Actions Manual. This very comprehensive document has been released to the field
in final draft form and is currently being staffed at Air Force Headquarters. Heretofore,
subordinate equal opportunity command personnel have primarily been told what must
be done. The Social Actions Manual explains how to do it.
Social actions regional conferences are attended by equal opportunity and other social action
personnel on an area-wide basis. Attendance is geographic rather than major command-oriented.
For instance, last August a Northwestern United States Social Actions Conference was held.
Not only do these conferences serve as excellent vehicles for cross-feed of information, but
they afford opportunities to communicate at length desirable methodology. Conduct of these
conferences is a function of two Headquarters Air Force Social Actions Assistance Teams.
Available to the newly-appointed equal opportunity officer and NCO is a two-week course in
human relations, conducted by the Air Training Command to provide a basic orientation in
topical inter-personal conflict. This basic orientation is later supplemented by intra-command
equal opportunity seminars.
The major command equal opportunity officer is responsible for the professional development of
subordinate equal opportunity personnel. In terms of formal schooling, an expanded course is
now being specifically designed for the administration of the base-level equal opportunity
Man-to-man or supervisor/subordinate discrimination at the unit level is the crux of the
problem. In a recent Air Force-wide sample survey, black airmen were asked to rank such
factors as promotion opportunity, daily duty assignments, and so on, as areas of significant
or perceived discrimination. Ranked one two and three were:
Discrimination in promotion, housing and assignments ranked lowest on the scale of perceived
racial discrimination. However, in the area of military justice, 66 percent of black officers
and 53 percent of black airmen felt that minority personnel receive more severe administrative
and judicial punishment for the same offense than majority personnel.
- Attitudes and treatment by superiors
- Attitudes of fellow airmen, and
- On-base clubs and social activities.
Again, the focus of complaints is more on what is occurring at a particular installation rather
than the system as a whole. However, at Headquarters, the Air Force is also taking actions
similar to those of the other Services in attacking institutionalized equal opportunity problems.
Early in 1970, the Chief of Staff approved "The Air Force Personnel Plan." This
is the guiding collection of concepts, goals, and objectives for management of Air Force
personnel. This plan, which consists of eight volumes covering such other personnel matters
as structures and systems, has as its heart Volume 1, "Objectives."
As a clear indication of the priority which equal opportunity enjoys within the Air Force, a
special annex entitled "Social Actions" was published. The Social Actions Annex
describes in detail the inter-relationship between each of the social actions programs. It
also sets forth in straightforward language how and why these programs must be totally
integrated into everyday Air Force personnel management.
The 308 personnel objectives in the plan are grouped into what are called "Personnel
Life-Cycle Functions." Thus, personnel are procured, educated or trained in an Air Force
specialty, assigned in that specialty, sustained throughout their Air Force careers, and
finally separated or retired.
Early in 1972, the Air Force examined each of the 308 objectives in the personnel plan to
determine which had equal opportunity implications. This screening pointed up 122 objectives,
or about a third of the total.
Each of the identified objectives was then modified to include an appropriate statement which
would insure equal opportunity and treatment and eliminate the potential for discrimination.
For example, the objective of increased minority officer representation was added to the basic
procurement objective. A method of individualized monitoring of objectives was then developed.
An officer is assigned, by name, to monitor the status of each objective. He establishes the
milestones, spots the problems, and generally manages progress toward objective attainment.
The Air Force has learned that the logical assumption in race relations often turns out to be
quite illogical in practice. Some Air Force programs were originally built upon a series of
incorrect assumptions. Today, these discarded myths are accorded mock-theoretical status by
professional equal opportunity personnel, though not entirely in jest.
For instance, the "bubble-up" theory assumed that minorities had a problem because
of certain previous deprivations – that this problem and resultant irrational behavior
came to the surface, for instance, when the temperature exceeded a certain level, when living
conditions were poor, or a certain stress condition was met.
This view of minority behavior was often related to what could be called the "keep them
busy" theory which assumed that sufficient activity would divert the minority mind from
the ever-present, latent internal problem.
The Air Force experience has been that racial discord is related to external rather than to
internal influences; that problems arise as a result of unfavorable interpersonal interaction
– or exposure to other personnel.
For example, some of the busiest bases in terms of work hours and missions, both in and out of
hostile fire areas, have been peak racial discord bases. Others, similarly situated, have not.
On the other hand, bases with a low level of activity have not necessarily shown a proneness to
racial discord due to excessive leisure.
It has been found that some equal opportunity officers operate under the assumption that success
is based on the number of simultaneous, dazzling programs that can be executed at any one time.
Thus, some equal opportunity officers have sincerely but unnecessarily been involved in
sponsoring "soul" picnics and the like. Actually, identification and thorough
investigation of individual grievances by equal opportunity officers – for commanders
– have proved to be the most positive activity to reduce racial or cultural tensions.
At individual installations it often appears that racial discord is centered in certain
organizations. However, the number of minority personnel in an organization is not the only
factor to consider in estimating the potential for discord.
An important lesson learned is that some commanders create a psychological/racial environment
at unit and organizational levels by actions that signal their attitude. It has been found
that many commanders who are sincerely interested in harmonious accord have a low level of
racial sophistication which consistently undercuts their position.
Thus, the commander who frequently takes a public position for equal opportunity and demonstrates
support of his equal opportunity officer creates a positive environment. The opposite, the
commander who never addresses the subject of race, who never takes appropriate action in
instances of discrimination, creates a negative environment. It is this latter commander
who usually cannot understand why he has a racial problem.
It is perhaps significant to note that the successful equal opportunity commander is normally
not pushed or nudged to that position by his staff. In this area, he is usually a self-made man
or a leader.
In summary, the Air Force has developed a comprehensive system for managing all aspects of equal
opportunity. Of course, the key is the individual commander. The goal is to provide commanders
with the best-trained and most capable equal opportunity personnel possible. Heretofore, these
equal opportunity personnel have either been full-time or part-time, depending on the command.
However, the larger commands currently man equal opportunity positions at base level on a
Air Force-wide manning of base-level equal opportunity positions on a full-time basis soon will
be directed. This manning will be accomplished by job trade-offs. Thus, the Air Force has both
an institutional and an organizational management approach. Air Force leaders feel that this
combined approach represents a significant step toward achieving the Air Force goal of equal
opportunity for all.