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Air, Space Force installations seek mediators to help with conflict resolution

  • Published
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

The Department of the Air Force needs mediators for conflict resolution, and you can help.

Mediation provides Airmen, Guardians and civil servants an alternative solution to litigation for workplace conflicts. Both parties can come together with resolution neutrals who can assist them in breaking down the issue.

“Mediation looks at improving the workplace relationship going forward,” said Kimberly A. Mlinaz, Negotiation and Dispute Resolution program director. “While litigation primarily focuses on the specific instance, it does not address any underlying problems or the relationship as a whole. When you take a workplace complaint to litigation, both parties lose control of the outcome.”

Elliot Moore, Special Operations Command Equal Opportunity functional manager and veteran mediator, describes mediation as a place where disputing parties can feel empowered.

“Mediation helps people to know they can agree to disagree, agreeably,” Moore said. “They can come to the table and talk with one another instead of at one another. When they can come together to see the other person’s point of view, who knows? They may be able to resolve the conflict and become the best of friends.”

Described as “guardrails,” mediators must remain neutral to create a safe and trusted environment where open discussions can take place.

Don Satterlee, B-1 Bomber Division chief for operations and veteran mediator, offers this advice to those considering becoming a mediator. “First, check your bias, hone your listening skills and hone your patience. The mediation process can take anywhere from a couple of hours to several months.”

Formal training is required to become a mediator for the Department of the Air Force. Employees must complete a DAF-sponsored basic mediation course and are asked to co-mediate three mediations with DAF mediators before they can mediate for DAF independently. The department requires mediators to attend eight-hours of refresher training annually to keep their skills sharp.

For DAF’s more experienced mediators, U.S. Air and Space Forces partnered with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, a federal agency with a conflict management mission, for their Advanced Mediation Course held in Washington, D.C., Aug. 22-31. This hybrid training allowed DAF mediators to take part in high-emotion exercises, technology use and questioning techniques. The course consisted of virtual training as well as in-person, intensive role playing.

“Conflict management seems like a simple skill; but in practice, it’s challenging to do well,” Mlinaz said. “It should be as professional and comfortable as it can be, and this training only enhances the skills of our mediators in the field.”

Following advanced course completion, mediators participate in a mentorship program for six months where they meet to co-mediate with FMCS mediators to continue sharpening their skills. Those mediators may then train and assist other inexperienced mediators throughout the department.

 “No matter which installation you are assigned to — Air Force or Space Force — if you have some sort of issue and think you can benefit from a neutral party to have a conversation, you can reach out and get the asset,” Mlinaz said.

To become a mediator, visit the Negotiation and Dispute Resolution site and select “Contact Us.”