AFTC honors Black History Month: Linda Phillips Bell

  • Published
  • By Tiffany Holloway
  • Air Force Test Center

For the entire month of February, we are celebrating up-and-coming Black leaders within the Air Force Test Center. This week, we are highlighting Linda Phillips Bell, 412th Test Wing Comptroller Squadron financial analyst, at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., with a question-and-answer session with Tiffany Holloway, AFTC public affairs director.

Introduce yourself.

I like to think of myself as a warm, caring, and kind person. I am a doting mother of two young men Joshua and Elias. I also have a goddaughter named Africa. I have been married for 28 years to my husband Reginald Bell. Only above these four is God who is my all.

In my heart, I joined the military at about 8th grade when I fell in love with helicopters.  When I graduated high school, I promised my parents that I would graduate college before I joined the military. I participated in everything military that the university had to offer. I joined the Air Force after graduating college and if I could have signed for the full 20, I would have that day I took the oath.

What would you tell anyone who wants to join the Air Force?

If the Air Force is your choice of career even for a short stint, do not let anyone take that choice from you by bulling or making you feel less-than. Remind yourself, I am an American and I serve because I care about America. It is a great opportunity to get to know who you are, explore your potential, and serve the greatest nation in the world.

How long have you been here at Edwards Air Force Base?

I served at Edwards for 6 years on active duty and 17 years as a DoD civil servant. I began at the 412 TW Medical Group and presently work at 412TW Comptroller Squadron as a financial analyst. My part-time duty includes being one of eight Special Emphasis Program Managers for the base. We work closely with the Affirmative Employment Program Manager. We assist special observances, monitor, identify and help to remove barriers to equal and equity employment opportunities for groups.

I’m interested in hearing more about your role as the Special Emphasis Program Manager. Can you tell me more?

Well, I have been a SEPM now for two years. This is a new opportunity as AFMC is revamping and rejuvenating its Employment Equal Opportunity Program with the initiative to give a voice to the workers that in turn leads to a visible and viable solution, real change. I have been given the opportunity to invite an inclusive group of the base community both civilian and military to join together to address issues and identify barriers that will be forwarded from our Member Employee Resource Group at Edwards through the chain up to MAJCOM Barrier Analysis Working Group. There are eight groups at the base level. I am SEPM for Black and African Americans under the Black and African American Employment Strategic Team. Anyone interested in volunteering to be part of this emergent group MERG are welcome.   

What are the benefits of hosting Special Emphasis Programs?

It is very important to celebrate the people around you. Every American should be celebrated because we are one. A quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” We have been programmed to “believe negatively” of others who do not look like or grow up around you.

What are the challenges with trying to get participation?

The challenges are in changing the norm, changing the atmosphere, and changing a negative attitude to a positive attitude.  All of the Special Emphasis groups work hard to put on activities in the designated months or days. We must keep working. Undoubtedly, no one person can change the whole world but one can certainly start to change the world around them. To celebrate Black American History Month, TSgt Christopher LaStrape from 412TW Security Forces Squadron and his committee have some exciting activities planned such as virtual leadership and health panels, a drive-in movie, a mentoring session sponsored by MAJCOM BEST, BHM Poetry Event, and more. Stay tuned for 412TW Public Affairs updates.  

You mentioned the Member Employee Resource Group. Tell me what you envision for the committee.

Yes, I am excited about MERG. The group is open to all volunteers that want to advocate for qualitative inclusion. I’m looking for people who are interested in serving as an information gatherer, collaborating on issues, triggers, barriers, and working for change. We want to build an environment of confidence, safety, and respectfulness that enhances understanding of triggers inside and outside the workplace to overcome mistrusts and breakdown barriers to equity and equal employment on Edwards.  

What type of programs have you put on in the past?

In the past, Black History Month Committees have done community outreach programs such as our annual Gospel Explosion, sponsored community vendors’ fair with information on local services and connections for our military family, school contests essays for the older children, and drawing contest for the younger children, library readings for toddlers and historical displays. Working with the African Heritage Association (AHA) we do community services such as trips for the youth and airmen to California African American Museum, volunteer at the homeless shelter store, and collect food and clothing.

I would encourage people to get involved. Whether it’s becoming a member of Blacks in Government, African Heritage Association, Toastmasters, mentoring groups, the local City of Chambers, or Member Employee Resource Group.

Why is it important to celebrate Black History Month?

To me, Black/African American history month is more than a song and dance, it is more than a parade, and it is more than listing the first black accomplishments and inventions that we see when we do a Google search. We celebrate because Black people are a central and fundamental part of the interwoven fabric that makes this nation the best. We will keep celebrating with persistence, with positive presence, and with purpose knowing that we will be celebrated; not just in February because it is Black history month but every day because we are American.

Those words of wisdom are an excellent way to end the interview. Thank you again.

To become a Member Employee Resource Group, email Linda Phillips Bell by searching her in the global directory.