NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The U.S. Navy’s newest task force is hoping to improve military readiness but this time it’s by getting rid of discriminatory barriers its sailors face.

“I think we are looking for enduring and meaningful change,” said Vice Admiral John Nowell about the creation of Task Force One Navy.

The task force will analyze and evaluate societal and military issues such as racism, sexism, and other discriminatory actions in hopes of providing recommendations on how to change practices and barriers.

Nowell, who is the Navy’s chief diversity officer, says task forces in the past have tended to fizzle out but he believes since senior leadership is committed to making changes because of the current climate, necessary actions will be taken to make a difference.

“As we look at current events, it really puts a light on the fact that we need to do more, do it more quickly and that’s what we’re going to get after,” he said.

Nowell already instructed for commands to host listening conversations with sailors and civilian workers about their experiences.

And while they’ve been hard, they’ve also been necessary especially from hearing about the experiences African American and Black sailors face.

“It reinforces that the Navy still does have a culture problem based upon implicit bias,” he said.

Fleet Master Chief Wes Koshoffer says it’s also been hard hearing what sailors go through, not just in the Navy, but on a day-to-day basis.

“It’s a real wake up call for me,” he said. “I’m certainly committed. The groups we’re going to be in contact with through the task force, the conversations we’re having today are different. We’re approaching real talk and to me, That’s exciting. You can never rest your oars on this subject. It’s going to take long and conscientious and deliberate continuous effort to make the progress we want to make.”

According to Task Force One Navy’s charter, it will focus on specific areas:

  • Recruiting efforts/ barriers to service entry
  • Pre-accession mentorship frameworks/scholarship opportunities
  • Diversity of talent by community/ talent management
  • Training/ Education along the service member career continuum
  • Detailing/ Milestone job opportunities
  • Fitness reporting/ Evaluation systems
  • Promotion/Advancement processes
  • Military justice analysis of racial disparity
  • Health care and health disparities

Nowell says for years, the Navy has had a Board of Inclusion and Diversity but the task force will also work to make sure underrepresented groups feel included.

Twenty percent of those enlisted are Black but only about nine percent are officers, according to Nowell.

Koshoffer says issues like this and removing barriers that cause this to happen are just a few of the examples they’ll work on.

“Specifically in the enlisted, our diversity numbers are good. We recruit a very diverse group of individuals to the Navy but are they included? Fully included at every level of leadership in the right critical conversations?” he said. “Do we truly leverage that diversity? Those are things we can do immediately.”

The task force is scheduled to submit its initial report on July 31 and its final report in December.

Rear Admiral Alvin Holsey is the designated director of the task force and will report to the chief of Naval operations, Nowell.

Rear Admiral Putnam Browne will serve as deputy director and executive secretary.

Captain Thomas ‘TJ’ Dixon, will serve as chief of staff, Force Master Chief Huben Phillips as senior enlisted advisor and Jane Roberts as a civilian advisor.

Task force officials say they will also work with focus groups within and outside the Navy to accomplish its goal.

To read more Task Force One Navy, click here for its charter.

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