Seize the opportunity to embrace diversity

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Lexie West
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Since 1997, the world has evolved and the U.S. Air Force has evolved with it. New technology has changed the way the Air Force takes to the sky, advanced equipment enables worldwide communication and Airmen are pushing the boundaries of what the world believed possible.
 
Today, the Air Force is made up of more than 300,000 men and women of all races, ethnicities and religions; a true sampling of the American population.
 
Diversity and inclusion have been important parts of helping make the Air Force of the past, become the Air Force of today. The Air Force Diversity & Inclusion program looks to “attract, recruit, develop and retain a high quality, diverse Total Force, ensuring a culture of inclusion in order to leverage the diversity of the nation for strategic advantage in Air Force, joint and coalition operations.”
 
Unfortunately, for Airmen like Senior Master Sgt. Timothy Brewster, 100th Logistics Readiness Squadron materiel management flight chief, diversity and inclusion wasn’t always attainable.
 
As Brewster reflects on his 23-year Air Force career, he thinks back to a story about an Airman that has helped shape him into the leader he is today. This “career-defining moment” was one of the most powerful moments in Brewster’s career and centers around an Airman who was nearly excluded from an opportunity simply for being different. 
 
Many years ago, a distinguished guest was visiting Brewster’s unit and an Airman was needed to provide a briefing. Brewster, a technical sergeant at the time, selected a stellar Airman, who was dedicated, selfless and enthusiastic. A young supply Airman from Puerto Rico, he was dedicated to his craft and making those around him better; however, this Airman’s culture was being used against him.
 
“He was sharp, appreciated by the section and was truly a great representation of the hard-working men and women of the Air Force,” recalls Brewster. “But I was told I couldn’t provide him with an opportunity to excel because he had an accent.”
 
Brewster was disappointed but didn’t stand aside. He fought against the discrimination in order to give his Airman the opportunity he deserved. 
 
“I always wanted somebody to stand up for me. That’s why I stood up for him,” Brewster said.
 
Timothy Brewster was born and raised in Kankakee, Illinois, a small city south of Chicago. One of three children, Brewster had plans to attend a university after high school, but instead joined the Air Force at the age of 18. 
 
In May 1997, and with some encouragement from his aunt, Brewster raised his right hand to join the world’s greatest Air Force.  
 
At his first two assignments, Brewster grew as an Airman and started to gain a better understanding of team dynamics and respect within the Air Force.
 
As supply materiel management, Brewster is responsible for acquiring, receiving, warehousing, issuing and overall management of materiel required to sustain Air Force operations. Additionally, materiel managers can be placed in squadrons that have a need for maintaining supplies. 
 
“As an Airman, I worked with security forces and I grew a profound respect for them,” said Brewster. “In 2004, I deployed as part of their unit and the experience helped me develop an appreciation for other career fields outside of my own and the diverse group of Airmen dedicated to their craft.”
 
Due to his experience as an Airman, now Senior Master Sgt. Brewster continues to acknowledge the hard work of Airmen that often can go unnoticed, such as the hundreds of security forces personnel who routinely ensure the security and protection of the installation. 
 
Recognizing the work of Airmen is how Brewster shows gratitude and how he emphasizes the importance of ensuring every Airman feels like they are part of the team.
 
“When we talk about the Air Force being a family, Timmy B hands down gets that more than anyone I have ever met,” said Chief Master Sgt. Jeremy Johnson, Air Combat Command materiel management chief. “In 2010 when I lost my father, Timmy B was the first to give me a call and come see me, just to make sure I was okay.”
 
Creating a sense of belonging and inclusion are key parts of Brewster’s leadership style, because it’s something that was not always afforded to him during his career.
 
“I am an openly gay black man, and I came into the military when ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was still in place,” said Brewster. “I never had the opportunity for people to learn who I truly was as an individual. I wanted people to be able to be there for me and to understand me.”
Brewster’s identity as a gay black man has made him a more understanding and inclusive leader for Airmen and his community. 
 
He currently serves as the president of the Royal Air Force Mildenhall Diversity and Inclusion Council and the Real Unity Now organization. Brewster coordinates impactful events through these organizations including the Unity Walk, the Diversity & Inclusion Day and Real Unity Now events.
 
“It’s important to me that we’re surrounding ourselves and embracing diversity because we all have something to bring to the table in support of the mission,” said Brewster.
 
Brewster has used the adversity he has faced throughout his career to learn how to seize every opportunity to create a more welcoming and inclusive work environment for every Airman. 
 
“He is genuine, humble, caring and always places everyone else’s needs ahead of his own,” said Johnson. “He has the ability to make you feel like you are the only one that matters.”
 
Brewster’s advice for all leaders is to be proud of yourself, be present for all Airmen and understand the importance of having a voice and using it to force change.
 
“I will always just continue to aim to be a better human,” said Brewster. “My goal for the Air Force is for everyone to embrace the importance of diversity and realize that we are all unique. Diversity and inclusion isn’t just for certain people, it’s for everybody.”