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Diversity and inclusion highlighted during annual celebration

A fire dancer from the Tevakanui Cultural and Performing Arts Center performs for Soldiers and Airmen with the Nevada National Guard during the 2nd annual Diversity and Inclusion Day festival Aug 6 at the Las Vegas Readiness Center. The entertainment focused on Southern Pacific cultures to salute the new partnership between the Nevada National Guard and the Kingdom of Tonga.

Photo by Sgt. Walter Lowell, 17th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs

A fire dancer from the Tevakanui Cultural and Performing Arts Center performs for Soldiers and Airmen with the Nevada National Guard during the 2nd annual Diversity and Inclusion Day festival Aug 6 at the Las Vegas Readiness Center. The entertainment focused on Southern Pacific cultures to salute the new partnership between the Nevada National Guard and the Kingdom of Tonga. Photo by Sgt. Walter Lowell, 17th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs

LAS VEGAS -- The second annual Nevada National Guard Diversity Day was held here at the Las Vegas Readiness Center on August 6. Soldiers, Airmen and Marines mingled as they sampled assorted dishes of ethnic cuisine and visited booths decorated with pictures, maps, flags and trinkets representing culture, ethnicity and even sexual orientation and disability.

Diversity Day is a celebration of culture and inclusion that highlights the various cultures and lifestyles that make up the membership of military and civilian members of the Nevada Guard.

The event was held in the wake of the formal agreement signed through the State Partnership Program that linked the Nevada National Guard with the Kingdom of Tonga in April of this year. Maj. Christy Hales, Director of Military Family Support Services played a major role in organizing this year's event.

"This was a great opportunity to introduce the Nevada Guard's new partner during our diversity day," Hales said. "The event brought an understanding of the culture of the island nation of Tonga."

Senior leadership was on hand to take part in the festivities and celebrate the individual distinctiveness, that, when combined, creates the strength of the Nevada Guard.

"Everybody has their own uniqueness, and you have to embrace that uniqueness and include it as part of the DNA of the organization," said Brig. Gen. William Burks, Adjutant General of Nevada.

Ethnicity as well as lifestyle was celebrated at this year's event, which saw the first Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transsexual booth recognized by the state equal opportunity office and constructed by Pfc. Monserrat Romo from Headquarters Company, 17th Sustainment Brigade.

"Diversity is about individuals coming together despite their differences, working with commonality of purpose to achieve the goals of an organization," Romo said.

Romo was motivated to construct the LGBT booth in support of her sister and sister's partner. In 2013, the disabled veteran awareness booth was added to Diversity Day.

In addition to the various booths and ethnic food, attendees were treated to music and dancing, which highlighted performances by Tahitian and Polynesian dancers and musicians from the Tevakanui Cultural and Performing Arts Center. The live entertainment culminated with a fire spinning dance that is required to be performed by Tongan males in order for them to become warriors.

"Having a diverse team, helps an organization come up with fresh and innovative ideas," said Col. Vernon Scarbrough, Commander, 17th Sustainment Brigade. "If we all think alike, we're going to miss opportunities that we won't recognize are there, and having a variety of perspectives, cultural-based, education-based, age, gender and lifestyle is going to give us visibility of opportunities that like-minded thinking would not have allowed us to realize."

The cultural and lifestyle booths were made by the various Air and Army Guard units from southern Nevada, and attendees voted for their favorite. The cultural and lifestyle booths represented were: American Indian, Asia/China, Germany, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Argentina, Women, African American, Greece, Mexico, LGBT, Religion, disability and Tonga/Fiji as the highlighted culture reflecting the new international partnership. First Place went to Argentina, hosted by the 150th Maintenance Company.



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