Official websites use .mil
Secure .mil websites use HTTPS
The theme for the inaugural CNAF DEI Summit was Empowering Future Naval Leaders with a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Mindset. The purpose of the summit was to identify and address the challenges faced by Naval Aviators from diverse backgrounds and experiences, and to provide leadership development opportunities. The summit sought to achieve four primary objectives:
1) Identify and address diversity, equity, and inclusion issues effecting Naval Aviators.
2) Give voice to Naval Aviators from diverse backgrounds.
3) Educate leaders to increase their awareness of DEI issues and apply that perspective in the workplace.
4) Promote mentorship for aviators from diverse backgrounds.
Approximately 275 Naval Aviators and guests attended the event. Day one included a presentation titled “Up We Go!” that imparted a message of inspiration and resilience from retired Capt. Donnie Cochran, the first African-American Blue Angels pilot and commanding officer, and was highlighted by a personal message from Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Mike Gilday.
“Just by being here, it’s a declaration of your commitment to a cultural change and a future of further inclusiveness,” said Gilday. “What you’re doing here matters, and I’m grateful.”
Day two consisted of several small group breakout sessions and a “town hall” style question and answer session with Vice Adm. Kenneth Whitesell, Commander, Naval Air Forces.
Whitesell spoke to the attendees about the importance of creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture in Naval Aviation and imparted his mandate for tangible takeaways from the summit. “If anything happens that goes against our core values, that is a chink in our armor,” he said. “I am looking for takeaways today – actions that I can do that will turn into outcomes for a better environment for everyone who serves … The NAE (Naval Aviation Enterprise) leadership is fully committed to removing barriers to diversity, equity, and inclusion and creating enduring cultural change that maximizes lethality and warfighting.”
The summit served as a powerful tool for Naval Aviators to voice their concerns and propose solutions for immediate action. An expansive list of over 15 follow-on action items were directed by senior flag officers, including: implementing increased efforts for command leadership “listening sessions;” identifying career path options that support promotion and family
building goals; evaluating shortfalls in women’s health care; and increasing the focus on DEI within training and leadership development pipelines.
Other speakers at the CNAF DEI Summit included former Assistant Secretary of the Navy B.J. “Buddy” Penn; Vice Adm. John Nowell, Jr., Chief of Naval Personnel; Rear Adm. John Meier, Commander Naval Air Force Atlantic; Rear Adm. Alvin Holsey, Commander, Navy Personnel Command; Rear Adm. Shoshanna Chatfield, President of the Naval War College; Rear Adm. Stephen Barnett, Commander, Navy Region Southwest; and Dr. Charles Barber, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Programs, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs.
Capt. Alex Hampton, prospective Deputy Commander, Carrier Air Wing 7, also spoke at the summit and expressed why focusing on DEI is essential to improving the Navy.
“Naval Aviation is a great organization to work for,” said Hampton. “But in order to improve, we need to understand our people. Diversity, equity and inclusion, in large part, gives us a better understanding of the people we have the privilege to lead.”
CNAF further recognized the importance of empowering and giving voice to the perspectives of the future of Naval Aviation by designating a DEI summit team of ten junior Naval Aviators to act as advisors in the planning and execution of the summit. This unique opportunity provided senior leadership with direct feedback on CNAF DEI initiatives.
Lt. Jess Hayter, who is assigned to Navy Talent Acquisition Group Southwest and is a DEI summit team member, also spoke about the importance of the summit.
“This summit gives us an opportunity to give a voice to people who aren’t represented at the table right now,” she said. “We are trying to bring to light issues that aren’t intentionally neglected, but are still neglected, and work on finding solutions.”
In closing, Whitesell charged everyone in attendance to turn the proposals discussed at the summit into action.
“The bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you don’t make the turn. Today is a turn day,” he said.
The CNAF DEI Summit was established as a direct response to Adm. Gilday’s call to “identify and remove racial barriers, improve inclusion efforts, create new opportunities for professional development, and eliminate obstacles.”
For more information on CNAF’s DEI initiatives, please visit
CNAF DEI Office
Subject specific information for the media
Events or announcements of note for the media
Official Navy statements
Given by Navy leadership
HASC, SASC and Congressional testimony
Google Translation Disclaimer