Growing up, Col. (ret.) Alvin Bolton saw the “prestige” associated with wearing a military uniform in his community. He wanted to hold that responsibility of “serving [his] country.”
“There’s a lot of reasons I wanted to join the military but just being a young kid and having that understanding of my responsibility, I knew what I wanted some of my adult life to look like,” said Bolton, who was recently named the chief diversity officer of the Nevada Army Guard. “I wanted to be able to have that background so that my kids could say ‘my dad served in the military.’”
Bolton joined the military in 1986 with the intention of only completing one term and then moving to a different career path.
However, his military career spanned over 30 years.
Bolton served as the Nevada Army Guard’s deputy chief of staff of logistics and director of family programs. He was also the battalion commander for the 1/421st Regimental Training Institute in Las Vegas and was deployed internationally in Kuwait as a logistics officer.
“What I bring to the table is an individual that has values and morals,” he said. “My character represents what the right thing looks like. You know, it’s not hard for me as an individual to treat people with respect and have compassion and empathy to individuals. And as a result of that, I think I’ve been very successful in my career.”
Though he reached the level of colonel, Bolton admits it was challenging due to the lack of diversity.
“There’s no class that you need to go to teach you or tell you how to treat people,” he said. “There’s something inside everyone that should gear people to uplifting others to reach their maximum potential, whether that may be sports, work, education or whatever. Don’t let my skin, or my experience, my culture, challenge you to cross those barriers and get in the way of helping me get to where I need to be.”
In 2019, Bolton retired from the Nevada Army Guard. However, this summer, he accepted a job as Nevada National Guard’s first chief diversity officer. He began his new position July 28.
“[This position] is vital to the future of the organization and having experienced many challenges myself, I can see what other people probably can’t see with their blinders on,” Bolton added.
As chief diversity officer, Bolton manages the Nevada Guard’s equity and inclusion programs and will focus on increasing community outreach efforts.
In his new role, he will also look to encapsulate the “uniqueness” of individuals looking to join the military community.
“Everyone has different experience and cultures based on how they were raised,” he said. “This is one thing that we have to understand, that everyone is not like you. And just because they are not like you, you do not have to ostracize them. But have a conversation. If we listen, we learn something.”
Currently, he plans to conduct and implement unconscious bias training within the military. As part of his goals, Bolton will look to create an inclusive workplace environment for employees through recruitment, training and education.
“We bring people into an organization and if you have a certain group or organization recruiting that don’t look like the community, you are not going to get the community,” he said. “You are going to get what they are comfortable with.”
He said that the culture and policies of Nevada’s National Guard will also be analyzed and rewritten to ensure there are more modern approaches towards making employees feel comfortable in their workplace environment regardless of their race, gender, age, disability and sexual orientation.
“That’s critical because if you have individuals in an organization that went to the same school, had the same job background and skills, they’ll all think alike,” said Bolton. “You have to raise that by bringing differences into the conversation to expand your understanding.”
To make a difference in the military, there needs to be a level of engagement with the community and no one should be a bystander, according to Bolton.
“I want to create allies, champions and ambassadors in our organization and not allow the bystanders to watch this happen without saying something,” he adds.