Do military personnel in southeastern Connecticut feel welcome in the local community?

The Day

By: Julia Bergman

March 16, 2021

While service members are regularly queried about racism and discrimination within the ranks, they’re less likely to be asked about what they are experiencing in the communities where they live and work.

A national survey, which is circulating among southeastern Connecticut military personnel and their families, seeks to better understand sentiments about racial equality in the communities where military installations are based. The survey also is seeking input from veterans and civilians who work for the Department of Defense.

The national nonprofit Association of Defense Communities, prompted by the conversations on racial inequality spurred by the killing of George Floyd and other Black Americans, is heading up the effort to examine the issue at the local level.

The defense group, in partnership with the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, developed the survey, which was first sent out nationally before it was provided to local military communities to do their own assessments.

“This is not the Department of Defense conducting a survey,” said Bob Ross, executive director of the state’s Office of Military Affairs and an ADC board member. “Local communities are conducting the survey as part of their own assessments.”

Ross said the results will be shared with military commanders in the state, community leaders, the news media and others. The goal is to host listening sessions to allow small groups of people to discuss the survey's findings, and identify areas for improvement and actions that can be taken, he said.

In total, 1,726 individuals took the national survey and provided information about their race and ethnicity. The findings showed that Black respondents perceive greater effects of racial inequity in defense communities than their peers, ADC said in a recent report.

Some of the questions ask respondents whether they feel a sense of belonging in their community, if they feel they’ve been treated fairly and equitably based on their race and/or ethnicity, and whether they feel their local government is adequately addressing diversity and equity.

The survey, which is open through March 26, can be found here.   

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