It was a revolving atmosphere of food and music as Soldiers and Army civilians gathered for a taste of cultural diversity.
The 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command celebrated Diversity Day on Friday, Sept. 13, also called a Multi-Ethnic Observance, as a way of paying homage to a variety of cultures and ethnic groups on a single day.
"It fosters understanding," said Lt. Col. Bruce Kish, the Equal Opportunity program manager for the 316th ESC. The Army is way more diverse now than it was years ago. This is an opportunity to see how other people live and think, Kish added.
The celebration took place toward the end of a weeklong, 60-hour training program for Equal Opportunity Leaders. The course taught approximately 30 leaders from various units the fundamentals of the EO program so they could bring those values back to their units, advise their commanders and first sergeants on EO issues, mediate conflicts or disputes and assist the Equal Opportunity Advisors with collecting demographic data and information surrounding a formal complaint.
Additionally, the students learned the key factors in putting together a successful cultural observance.
This particular multi-cultural event, which was promoted with the catch phrase, "Variety is a spice of life," is not an official celebration required by the Department of Defense. It was hosted and organized by the Equal Opportunity Office of the 316th ESC as a way of honoring multiple cultures at once.
"We wanted it to be welcoming and inviting," said Amy Adams, the Equal Opportunity specialist for the command.
Based on DoD policy, the military follows the observance of ten major ethnic groups throughout the year to foster respect among its service members. Due to budgeting restrictions and cutbacks, the EO office for the 316th ESC didn't have funds to organize an observance on a monthly basis. Instead, they decided to bring a variety of groups together into a single event.
"The command has been behind it. They really deserve a pat on the back for sponsoring the event despite the lack of EO funding," said Adams. "They deserve the credit for putting this event on."
The event was open to everyone working at the T/SGT Vernon McGarity U.S. Army Reserve Center, located in Coraopolis, Pa. The attendants tasted food from five different regions, listened to music from around the world and learned from presentations about each culture.
"It feels like a party, but it's an interesting way to present educational material and spread diversity," said Adams.
The observance was designed to allow mingling, rather than force people into a setting of mandatory education. Static displays and trivia questions were used to entice curiosity and stimulate discussion. The goal was to promote unity through a respect for diversity.
The food and cultures represented were; Native American, Asians, Caribbean, Hispanic and Central European. These five groups were selected based on demographic information collected by the EO office from members of the 316th ESC command staff.