ARLINGTON, Va. (June 17, 2015) -- As part of the Department of Defense's Culture Reflections and Pride Month, the National Guard Bureau, or NGB, recently held its inaugural Diversity and Inclusion Day to celebrate the many backgrounds of those within the organization.

"The event, which was an idea that we borrowed from several states that have already had similar initiatives, was our opportunity to celebrate diversity within the organization," said Alfranda Durr, program manager for the Equal Opportunity and Diversity Office, which hosted the event.

"It allowed people to take a step back and reflect on their heritage and allowed everyone to see how diversity plays a prominent role in our [organization], because diversity is not just about ethnicity, race or gender, but also the skills and abilities of all those who serve within the organization," he said.

Durr said it is important that the organization be a reflection of the communities it serves.

"I think we are more connected than we think, and it's those unique experiences and backgrounds that make us a more cohesive organization," he said. "This was a day that you could celebrate your heritage, but more importantly it was a day in which you could educate others."

Also this month, the Joint Diversity Executive Committee, or JDEC, met to discuss initiatives and events, such as the NGB Inclusion Day, what initiatives are and are not working to promote diversity, and the way ahead for diversity within the organization.

Army Maj. Gen. Tim Reisch, adjutant general of the South Dakota National Guard and the chair of the JDEC, said the mission of the committee is to facilitate the implementation of the diversity and inclusion strategic plan of Army Gen. Frank Grass, the chief of the NGB, and provide resources for success throughout the Guard.

"Gen. Grass signed his diversity and inclusion strategic plan in December, [outlining] four main goals that are supported by a number of objectives," Reisch said.

The plan requests the states to work on diversity and inclusion within their organizations, Reisch said.

The three other goals include increasing leadership commitment, developing and increasing internal and external diversity partnerships, and mentoring and retaining top talent within the organization.

"Leaders at all levels need to be committed to diversity and inclusion, which means including people that have different points of view," said Reisch, adding that differences are what leaders need to capitalize on and surround themselves with as it enables them to make the best decisions, making diversity and inclusion a force multiplier.

Reisch and Durr both said there are two different types of diversity: the things you can see, or tangible, and the things that you cannot see.

The things you cannot see "are things like religion, where you were raised, sexual preference, your moral beliefs," Reisch said.

Durr agreed, further proposing a third type: how does the organization manage talent and sustain it?

"When you talk about diversity from those three aspects, I think the organization is getting better," he said. "But one of the things that rarely gets mentioned, when talking about diversity, is generational diversity, and identifying and mentoring the leaders of tomorrow."

Reisch agreed.

"Mentorship is one area that I think we could grow more and it's really critical as we go forward. [Many Soldiers] like to hear feedback, and if we are not letting them know the potential that we see in them, then that's a serious shortfall for leaders," Reisch said.

"I think that this is something that most [within the Guard] are trying to work on to make sure we get it right," he said.

Reisch said there isn't one right way to increase diversity and inclusion within the 54 organizations, which make up the National Guard.

"Our plan presents the four big goals of [Gen.] Grass, but [we] are working towards those goals in a variety of methods," he said.