All Blue-Alliance members who have not yet registered on this website will need to Join and be verified prior to accessing any member only content.
We also strive for providing a path for "reconnection" for the many LGBT USAFA alumni who have over time been disassociated from the Academy and the AOG because of their sexuality or gender identity.
Please join us for the Blue Alliance Annual Summit, Saturday, October 4th. This year’s theme “On the Pulse” is inspired by an excerpt from Maya Angelou’s poem On the Pulse of Morning read at the first inauguration of President Bill Clinton:
Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes, into
Your brother's face, your country
And say simply
This year’s Summit includes a panel discussion with multi-service active duty, alumni and cadets where we will explore how we may serve with integrity and lead with excellence on the pulse of this new, post-repeal era.
Your support is important. Spouses, partners and friends are welcome.
**SCHEDULE OF EVENTS**
Friday, October 3rd
- 1800: Blue Alliance Board Meeting (Biaggi's, 1805 Briargate Parkway, Colorado Springs @ 1800 in the wine room)
Saturday, October 4th
- 0930-1300: Blue Alliance Tailgate (Falcon Stadium)-LOT 5 SPOT 11-Please ref the link below that includes a map showing the tailgate location
- 1330: USAFA v. USNA football game (Falcon Stadium)
- 1700: Cocktail Reception (The Grill Room, Eisenhower Golf Course)
- 1800: Dinner and Panel Discussion (The Grill Room, Eisenhower Golf Course)
**Summit attendees are invited to all listed events including the Blue Alliance Board Meeting on Friday
Tickets / Registration:
- Dinner and Panel Discussion: $50 for attendees and guests, free for cadets and distinguished visitors. REGISTER BELOW AND PURCHASE TICKETS WITH PAYPAL ON THE NEXT PAGE.
- Football Game: $57.50 for section M9 (recommended seating). Visit www.goairforcefalcons.com to purchase game tickets.
- Cocktail Reception: Cash bar
- Smart Casual for all events. (Note: the cocktail reception will immediately follow Air Force’s sinking of Navy.)
Accommodation / Transportation / Parking:
- Although rooms have not been blocked, most attendees are staying at the Antlers Hilton Hotel in downtown Colorado Springs. For reservations visit www.antlers.com
- Ground transportation throughout the Summit should be arranged individually; however cadets needing transportation to/from the Cadet Area before/after official Summit events can contact firstname.lastname@example.org or other Blue Alliance members.
- Recommended parking location for the cocktail reception, dinner, and panel discussion is the north side parking area at Eisenhower Golf Course.
- Recommended parking location for the tailgate and football game will be announced soon.
Cadet Sponsorship / Donations:
- Can’t make it to this year’s Summit? No problem! RSVP below and make a donation on the following page to help sponsor a cadet's attendance.
**IF YOU ARE A CADET THAT IS REGISTERING FOR THE EVENT PLEASE JUST FILL OUT THE FORM BELOW. YOU DON'T NEED TO FOLLOW THE PAYPAL LINK ON THE SECOND PAGE TO MAKE A PAYMENT SINCE IT IS FREE FOR CADETS**
The following individuals will be on the panel this year!
PANEL MEMBER BIOS:
Colonel Gary Packard, USAFA, ‘82 – Moderator
Gary is a 1982 graduate of USAFA, and is a command pilot. He is the Chair and Permanent Professor for the Dept. of Behavioral Sciences & Leadership at the Air Force Academy. Gary has a MA degree in Psychology from Michigan State and a PhD from UNC Chapel Hill. He hails from Chelsea, MI. His main academic and teaching interests are leadership & character development and social influences on development.
Lou Feuchtbaum, USNA, '86
Lou is a partner at the law firm of Sideman & Bancroft in San Francisco, and a former district attorney in the Bronx. He graduated from USNA in 1986, and The George Washington University School of Law. Lou served in combat while on active duty in the US Navy.
Anthony Woods, USMA, '03
Anthony is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, who was discharged from the United States Army in 2008 for violating the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy. He has run for Congress and also served as a White House Fellow in 2011-12. Anthony is a graduate of Harvard University JFK School of Government and served as an aide to New York Governor David Paterson.
Kathleen Robbins, USAFA '68
Kathleen graduated with an engineering science degree from the Air Force Academy in 1968 and flew as an instructor navigator (two years in Vietnam on C-130s) for seven years. While in the AF, she completed an MBA and resigned in 1975. Following the AF, she worked in corporate America, beginning with P&G, co-founded two start-up companies and was CEO of Cellular One of East Central Illinois for eight years. In 2007, she co-founded the jatropha projenou, (www.peopleandplace.org) an effort to develop a biodiesel and soap industry in Haiti using seeds from a native tree, jatropha curcas, to produce oil. Today she travels to Haiti 3 to 4 times a year.
Tara L. Sweeney, USAFA ‘95
As a cadet, she distinguished herself as both a student and an athlete ultimately serving as First Group Commander, graduating with honors. Upon graduation, Tara attended USAFA-sponsored graduate school at UNC Chapel Hill, and served as a Helicopter Maintenance Officer in the United States Air Force Special Operations Command until she was medically retired. Tara continues to succeed in her civilian career, founding several successful entrepreneurial endeavors. She resides in Henderson, Nevada, with her wife, Dr. Jennifer Bishop, and their two dogs, Calie & Jake.
Nate Vosters, USAFA '02
Maj Nathan P. Vosters, is the Air Officer Commanding of Cadet Squadron One at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He is an acquisitions officer who has served in a variety of program management positions at the Space and Missile Systems Center and while deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is a graduate of both the Naval Postgraduate School and Air Command and Staff College. He also recently received a Master's degree in Counseling and Leadership from UCCS. He lives in Colorado Springs with his spouse Tyron.
Yvonne Johnston, USAFA ‘09
Capt Yvonne M. Johnston is a Flight Commander, 322 TRS, Lackland AFB, TX.
A graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2009, Captain Johnston has served in various assignments in ACC, AFGSC, AFMC, and AETC. She is a graduate of Squadron Officer School, and deployed to Honduras in 2011.
Chase hails from Appalachia, Virginia and is in USAFA class of 2015. He is member of Cadet Squadron 3 "Dogs of War" majoring in Management. Chase is a member of the Wings of Blue Demonstration Team, and Business Club, and wants to become a hospital administrator with the Medical Service Corps after graduation.
Update from USAFA - It's Gay Pride Week a month early!!!! the Academy is doing a lot of groundbreaking work on inclusion. Today, The Superintendent in conjunction with Col. Stacey Hawkins, the 10th Air Base Wing Commander, held a diversity and inclusion Q&A panel that was well attended by cadets and faculty alike.
Additionally, to honor LGBT Pride (and scheduled earlier than June to allow cadets to attend) - the Commander of the 10th ABW is holding it's first ever Pride and Unity celebration tomorrow night May 21st on the Terrazzo by the Harmon/Vandenberg overhang. There will be an introduction by Spectrum, remarks by the Base Commander and our very own Tricia Heller. This will be followed by a candlelight vigil to honor all those who have served in silence.
Blue Alliance would like to take this opportunity to thank both Superintendent Michelle Johnson and Col Stacey Hawkins for leading and inspiring the Cadet Wing and USAFA to embrace an atmosphere of excellence, integrity, and inclusion. The event is open to all cadets, alumni, and active duty, whether LGBT or an ally. Time is 1930.
The Blue Alliance Board continues to work with the senior leadership at the Academy to create a more inclusive and supportive environment for all cadets. New avenues of collaboration have opened up under the current Academy leadership, and Blue Alliance is directly engaged in discussions on how to improve the organizational climate for LGB cadets. Blue Alliance has been working with the Academy staff to include an LGBT speaker at NCLS, and today we are pleased to announce that our own Scott Hines '92, City Councilman and former mayor of Rancho Mirage, CA will be a featured speaker at the event this year. Several Blue Alliance members are leading cadet discussion groups known as consortiums throughout the NCLS program. We encourage maximum particiapation by BA members in NCLS as a presence to facilitate a better environment for every cadet regardless of sexual orientation. We will continue to work closely with Academy staff to ensure full consideration of LGBT speakers and viewpoints in future events including next year's NCLS.
We all say we want to do more with Blue Alliance and get involved as alumni. Now's your chance! Attend the National Character and Leadership Symposium, February 27 & 28.
Although registration has officially closed, they are making an exception for Blue Alliance members who would still like to attend. Please email the Center for Character and Leadership Development directly at email@example.com or call 719-333-0885. You will then receive an internal link to register.
Please consider attending NCLS or marking the week down for next year. Your attendance will help bolster the event with USAFA grad presence, as well as show both USAFA leadership and cadets that there is indeed a growing LBGT community within and outside the Academy's walls.
Blue Alliance is in positive and timely communication with Air Force Academy officials and they are aware of our concerns related to the media accounts of the employment of Dr. Mike Rosebush. The Academy has embarked on an honest and comprehensive assessment of all aspects of this situation. Therefore, Blue Alliance awaits the results of this analysis, looks forward to a full,correct and factual account, and trusts that our concerns, most especially the well-being of the Air Force Academy Spectrum cadets and allies, are being heard and are a part of this discussion.
Please click on the "Go to Webform" link below for a reserved seat. All cadets and their guests are hosted free of charge for the Dinner by members of the Blue Alliance Alumni.
Karl Alvarez '84
Excellence in All We Do: Disappearing into the Crowd
My mother lived her life by a simple credo: “Fools names and faces appear in
public places.” She taught my siblings and me to let our actions speak for us. As
with most of her lessons, Mom’s values made a difference during every day I
spent at the Zoo and in every interaction I had in the Air Force.
As a doolie, I’d tried to hide from the fact that every person at USAFA knew and
liked my brother, Bobby ’81. By my two-degree year, I found myself hiding in
plain sight. I’d learned the lesson from Basic Cadet Training: Don’t be at the
front of any line. Don’t be at the back either! My most vivid memory of school
was of a lone walk across the Terrazzo in the wind and snow, not of friends or
fun. While my class was celebrating our last night before our service
commitment took effect, I realized why I wasn’t like anyone around me. My
initial reaction was one of fear. Then, on Mom’s example, I became resolute that
“that” won’t define me. I convinced myself that I could manage this and any
other challenge, giving not a single thought to the fact that “that” could get me
bounced from the Academy and the Air Force.
After the med-board removed me from Pilot Training, I found that I civilianized
my language. I spoke to people about my experiences in ‘college,’ replaced
‘doolie’ with ‘freshman,’ and rarely referenced that I’d graduated from a service
academy. Without realizing it, I’d removed all plural pronouns from my lexicon,
merely referencing that, for example, I’d gone on vacation despite the friends
and boyfriends with whom I’d actually gone. My only remaining contacts to my
alma mater were the unsinkable Gina Brown ’85 and ever-stalwart Trish Heller
These two friends invited me out of my self-imposed exile and allowed me to
recognize my deep commitment to the Academy and to the amazing people I’d
known there. I had been convinced when I went to my 20th reunion no one
would remember me.
Agreeing to attend my 20th reunion with me and my partner, John, Gina and
Trish made my homecoming one of heartfelt pride. While I was asked various
times if I’d actually graduated with ’84, I also found in myself a desire to
rekindle those few friendships that had been so important to me as I sought to
get comfortable in my own skin. The distance I’d built between me and the
Academy had been unnecessary. I am both successful and a proud USAFA grad.
September 20, 2011, represented to me a day when I could quietly say to myself:
“my service mattered.” I look forward to a strong, respectful, and affirming
relationship with the place that taught me who I am.
As a man who has over 1,500 unique contacts in my address book, of which less
than 50 are Academy related, I have a long way to go in reaching out to USAFA
to make my service fully matter. I welcome the new challenge!
Karl Alvarez | USAFA Class of 1984
We're recruiting Facilitators (that's you)! The Center for Character and Leadership Development conducts Honorable Living Education for basic cadets during Basic Cadet Training (BCT). We're looking for motivated USAFA graduates to help us inspire our newest recruits in small-group discussions during our Jacks Valley seminars.
Along with the Honor Code, the Commandant has challenged us to explore military "followership" as a necessary precursor to leadership. We’ll explore the relationship between being a young person of character and being a good follower. The Class of 2018 will first have the opportunity to reflect on their personally strong and weak virtues and habits they bring to the USAFA table. Next, they'll discuss several relevant scenarios they’ll soon face as a 4th-class follower which may test their character. You’ll come in for our final (and often most impactful) segment. You’ll lead a small group of Basics in personal conversations about how the character developed at USAFA impacted your life and career, and why it will be important for theirs as well. We will provide all volunteers with a brief lesson plan two weeks before the sessions to give you more specific context for your important role. No other preparation is necessary.
For Graduates interested in this privilege of working with the USAFA Class of 2018, please use the following link for more information and to sign up: http://www.cvent.com/d/5cqb74.
Participation for multiple days would be welcomed. There will be one session each day, July 22-29 (all times are 1515-1800).
Ask any of the 100+ group of USAFA Grads who participated last year…they had a fantastic time getting to know the new batch of cadets in real and relevant discussions. And many reconnected with classmates and friends they hadn’t seen in years. Let's do it again, in greater numbers, and energize the Class of 2018 with your unique and powerful insights.
Blue Alliance has grown and prospered because shared leadership is one of our core principles. Recently, Blue Alliance held our annual board review and election. Jeff Breininger, '85, one of the founding members of Blue Alliance, has been elected our new Chairman. On behalf of the existing members, we wish him much success and we look forward to the bright new vision he will bring to this organization. Thank you for stepping up, Jeff. Trish Heller '87, former Executive Director, has a completely new role in this organization. She will now narrow her focus to public policy and advocacy work. We feel this position is crucial so Blue Alliance will not only have a thriving membership, but a seat at the table as well. Trish is well suited to this position and with Trish in this pivotal role, we will continue to support the mission of the U. S. Air Force Academy in providing excellence in the development and training of our nation's future leaders..
We salute and thank board members Karl Alvarez '84 and Regina Brown '85 for their many years of service. Their contributions have been invaluable and for that we offer a heartfelt thank you.
Recently, the board solicited the membership for participation, interviewed and met with candidates in early December and we are happy to say that new life will be coming to our organization. We are proud to announce Charles Alfonzo '00 as a new board member.
Thank you to all our members for being the best part of Blue Alliance.
Blue Alliance was very proud to send off its first openly gay and lesbian grads last year with a Leadership Atlas. Our ask is that all our membership contributes some advice to our grads of 2013. You can download last years atlas with the link below.
By Mike Challman, USAFA ‘85
A few years ago, I was fortunate to reconnect (God bless Facebook!) with a classmate and friend, Darrel Slack. Through him, I learned of an organization that had formed to bring together GLBT alumni. When Darrel told me that the Blue Alliance also welcomes the participation of ‘straight allies’, I was happy to join. I did so as a statement of support for those whom the Blue Alliance serves, and as a way to honor Darrel and my other friends and family members who are part of the GLBT community. Since that enthusiastic joining I’ve done… well, not much of anything.
So why speak up now? Because another friend suggested to me not long ago that my support of GLBT rights is nuanced at best and disingenuous at worst.
I can understand that perception, and here is why. I support gay marriage rights, but at the same time I remain a committed member of the Catholic Church. I simultaneously believe that it should be a fundamental right to marry the person of one’s choosing regarding of gender, and also that the Church has a right to recognize (or not recognize) a marriage based on what it considers to be a valid, sacramental union according to its tenets. Some tell me that these two beliefs are incompatible; I disagree. They also tell me that the second belief is objectionable and offensive; I am sorry they feel that way.
Wouldn’t it be simpler if everyone on the “pro” side of GLBT rights believed exactly the same things in exactly the same way? Of course, that is unrealistic. People are distinctive and unique, each a one-of-a-kind amalgamation of opinions, beliefs, and biases.
So where exactly does my support rest? To me, the argument is simple. GLBT rights are NOT a religious or moral issue --- they are a social justice issue. It is a basic civil right to marry the person that you love regardless of gender; it is a basic civil right for GLBT service members to serve openly in the military (God bless those who drove a stake into DADT!); it is a basic civil right to live and work in an environment free from discrimination and hate; and it is especially a basic and crucial civil right for young people to grow into who they are without fear of bullying or persecution.
USAFA is far in the rear view mirror now, but I remember what it taught. One of the first lessons I learned is to stand up for one another --- remember hearing your classmates getting jacked up in the hall and barreling out there to stand with them? It wasn’t our first choice of where to be, but we had a solemn obligation to our comrades. Similarly, the most fundamental lesson that I took from USAFA is to live and act with honor and integrity --- even when it is not easy for us or popular with others, including our faith community.
I proudly stand with the GLBT alumni. There may be some aspects of the issues on which we don’t see completely eye-to-eye, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot stand resolutely shoulder-to-shoulder. I think it starts with publicly announcing my allegiance with the Blue Alliance --- I encourage others to do the same. I don’t even think it’s important to wear the label of ‘straight ally’ – I’d rather be just an ally, and more importantly a trustworthy friend.
By Devin Dwyer of ABC News
Follow on Twitter
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Eight months after a repeal of the military’s “don’t ask , don’t tell” policy, the U.S. Air Force Academy today graduated its first group of openly gay cadets.
As President Obama addressed the graduates, no rainbow flags could be seen on display. The LGBT students couldn’t be picked out of the crowd of white and blue.
But gay and lesbian advocates, academy alums, school officials and current students said they were there.
“The whole thing is we don’t want to be identified as anything different,” said Trish Heller, who heads the Blue Alliance, an association of LGBT Air Force Academy alumni. “We want to serve, to be professional and to be symbols of what it means to be Air Force Academy graduates.”
Heller said her group had connected with at least four members of the class of 2012 receiving diplomas today who had come out publicly as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. There were likely others, but they preferred to keep a low-profile, she said.
Conversations with dozens of current academy students and some new graduates presented a picture of a smooth transition from the military’s ban on openly gay service members serving to the repeal of that ban. There have been no major incidents of overt discrimination or harassment since the policy was repealed in September.
But many signaled the change in policy would continue to hold a tender and personal meaning for those cadets who were weighing the decision to come out of the closet.
“It’s just been really open, a lot of acceptance. I haven’t heard anyone say, ‘I hate this. I can’t serve in the military with this,’” said 3rd Class Cadet Kevin Wise, a second-year management major. “It’s a sense of ‘OK, this is their lifestyle, but they’re still the person I’ve spent 21 credit hours a semester next to or I’ve gone through this with,’” he said.
Wise said he knew several classmates who chose to come out in the past few months. “Honestly, for me, it was, ‘Oh well, I kind of had a suspicion since I’ve known you for two years now, but you just move on,” he said.
“There wasn’t any sort of repercussion against them or anything,” said 2nd Lt. Jenny Kavalstan of her gay classmates who graduated with her today. “I thought of them the same way I did before; most people do.”
Acacia Miller, a sophomore from Shreveport, La., praised the school’s leadership for setting the right tone before the repeal. “They did a good job preparing us. There were lots of briefings about it. They stated how the military was going to go forward with it, how we should act. It was pretty much just like any other repeal, segregation, all that stuff. We just got told this is what’s going to happen and we all need to be adults about it,” she said.
Gay cadets at all the U.S. military service academies have been forming clubs and support groups, slowly making their existence known online and at campus social events. The Air Force Academy group – called Spectrum – was officially sanctioned earlier this month and had about 30 members from across all classes, the organizers said.
The Air Force Academy’s administration has also allowed the Blue Alliance to have a more high-profile role on campus. The group flew rainbow flags during a tailgate party before a home football game in November, Heller said, and hosted a dinner attended by the dean of faculty, Gen. Dana Born. In February, the group participated in a campus leadership symposium, she said.
“Things have gone very smoothly at the academies since repeal,” said Sue Fulton, a 1980 West Point graduate and spokeswoman for the LGBT military advocacy group OutServe.
The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was approved by President Clinton in 1993 as a compromise toward ending a long-standing ban on allowing homosexuals to serve in the military. Gay service members could enlist but had to keep quiet about their sexual orientation. Advocates said it essentially forced them to live a lie.
Congress passed a law in 2010 formally ordering repeal of the policy. After a period of preparation and training for lifting the ban, the Pentagon gave the green light for final certification in September 2011.
“Basically, it was just another day when DADT was repealed,” said Air Force Academy spokesman John Van Winkle. “No big changes, no real growing pains. Most of American society has become much more accepting of the LGBT community over the years since President Clinton made the forward-thinking choice in the early ’90s to go from a strict no-gay policy to DADT.”
Advocates said they never believed the repeal would prove problematic on campus, given that younger generations of students were generally more accepting of homosexuality, and the military’s commitment to following the rules set by leaders.
“In dealing with cadets every day,” Heller said, “the bigger issue going forward is what every kid goes through in coming out at that age – dealing with your family, coming to terms with yourself, what does it mean to me personally – that is the real focus and challenge.”
by Karl Alvarez ‘84
On March 31st, I had the honor to represent ZoomU and Blue Alliance at the Inaugural KnightsOut Dinner at West Point. Conceived at our Blue Alliance Celebration in November 2011, the dinner was WoopU’s first opportunity to ‘come out’ on campus. The event hosted about 95 people with almost 35 cadets in attendance. Andrew Fitsimmons and Nate Gooden who attended our Blue Alliance Celebration were in attendance.
The dinner was like our first event: a very formal, military affair. 1LT Chris Antal, an Army Reserve chaplain, opened with a remarkable prayer that addressed every challenge to LGBT integration in the Army and at West Point. Lieutenant Antal’s parish, a Unitarian Universalist congregation close to the Academy, made a large contribution to KnightsOut and donated the evenings ‘take away’ in the form of a small book [looks a LOT like my ’84 Contrails] called “Bless All Who Serve.” Each copy of the book was personally dedicated to its recipient by Lt. Antal. Late in the evening, Chris mentioned that each cadet in attendance had taken a book and he wanted to send a copy to our cadets. I, therefore, traveled home with three copies for our graduating Firsties.
KnightsOut had four cadets and a cadet candidate speak about life at the Academy after repeal of DADT. There are significant regulatory obstacles to interactions between cadets and preppies at West Point. The Prep School recently moved onto the campus. The presentation of a cadet candidate marked a significant tide-change in the discussion of LGBQ members at the Military Academy.
I had the additional honor of being placed at the same table as Aubrey Sarvis, the outgoing Executive Director of Servicemembers’ Legal Defense Network (SLDN). Andrew Fitzsimmons was also at our table and provided a unique perspective on cadet life. The evening was built around the presentation of an important award to Jonathan Hopkins, USMA ’02, who was discharged under DADT but continued to assist DoD in implementation of repeal. John was highly decorated and has been one of the many faces of DADT in the media. A straight-ally, classmate of John’s detailed the character and leadership that John Hopkins brought to every unit in which he worked. The award itself was “a big cadet head” which was completely lost on this Zoomie so familiar with awards being in the shape of elegant birds.
Lessons I learned at WoopU: 1) We did a good thing in November with our dinner of historic significance, 2) Cadets have more interesting things to say than most of us, 3) We’d be well-served to attract national LGBT leaders to future dinners, 4) Blue is prettier than gray and less draining on my happy-meter, and 5) KnightsOut and Blue Alliance must work, in conjunction with USNA Out and groups from Coast Guard and Merchant Marine, to identify and celebrate our common values and missions. Our support of our cadets can only benefit from this cross-feed of goodwill and bonhomie
|A free public presentation for the broad Colorado Springs community.
Thursday, May 3rd, 7:00 − 9:00 pm
Shove Chapel on the Colorado College campus
1010 N. Nevada Avenue, Colorado Springs
Col Gary Packard
USAFA Behavioral Sciences Department Head
Abstract: The 1950 guidebook for military officers titled “The Armed Forces
Officer” states “the nature of loyalty requires that (the commissioned
officer) will use his force toward the righting of those things which reason
convinces him are going wrong.” How does one “right the wrongs” without
compromising one’s Oath? Col. Gary Packard will share his personal
journey, experiences as a writer on the DoD study of the DADT repeal, to
include a summary of the process and major findings, and lessons he
learned along the way to walk the walk on difficult social issues with
The views expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily
represent the policy of the United States Air Force Academy or any other
Featured presenter: Col. Gary Packard, Permanent Professor and Head of
the Department of Behavioral Sciences & Leadership at the USAFA. A
USAFA graduate, he has served our nation in the Air Force for close to 30
years, over ten years of that as an instructor at the Academy. Col Packard
will present on this topic for about 45 min, as he has done at various
campuses. There should be close to an hour for Q&A with the audience.
Sponsors: PFLAG Colorado Springs is the organizing sponsor. Other local
co-sponsors include the Colorado College Chaplains’ Office, The Pride
Center, The Diversity Forum, Citizens Project, and the Blue Alliance.
PFLAG point of contact: Bill Oliver, firstname.lastname@example.org
by Steven M. Samuels & Col. Gary A. Packard
AF Times, 6 Feb 2012, p. 24
Despite strong opposition that integration would harm military effectiveness, President Truman mandated the end of military segregation in 1948. When skeptical soldiers in Korea were forced to fight in integrated units, they discovered that with the bullets flying, what mattered was one’s ability to shoot straight; not one’s race.
“Don’t ask, don’t tell” was based on an argument similar to segregation: gay men and lesbians would reduce cohesion and effectiveness in military units. This decision was made primarily on personal convictions rather than evidence that showed actual negative impact. In 2010, the Defense Department rigorously studied the impact of repeal, concluding that, “the U.S. military can make this change, even in this time of war.”
Col Gary Packard
USAFA Behavioral Sciences Department Head
We all come into organizations with our own preconceptions born of our own provincialisms. Through interaction with diverse people, we break down our prejudices as we learn more about our teammates and become stronger as a unit. The data from the 2010 DoD study indicated that service members who believed there were no gay men or lesbians in their units were the most likely to view repeal negatively.
History and social science research inform us that as we get to know lesbian and gay service members, stereotypes will fade, even for those with honest personal disagreements about homosexuality. Thus, while the negative impact of DADT on gay men and lesbians was glaringly apparent, the impact on straight people was real but less obvious. For many straight people, the ability to truly get to know the gay men and lesbians in their units was stifled by the secrecy mandated by DADT.
Our Oath of Office demands that we support our nation’s laws; thus, under repeal, toleration is the minimum behavioral expectation of every service member.
Dr. Steve Samuels
USAFA Behavioral Sciences Faculty
However, military strength is not built on toleration. Strength requires acceptance and, ultimately, respect and inclusiveness for all who volunteer to serve. We must value our colleagues for who they are and not who we want them to be. In a healthy unit, a gay, agnostic man respects the dignity of the straight, evangelical woman, and she does the same. Through respect we discover, like soldiers in Korea, that with the bullets flying, what matters is training and ability, not the gender of one’s partner waiting at home.
Re-examining our relationships is difficult because we all fear that change will come at the cost of our own identity and personal beliefs. This fear is normal, and it occurred with both racial and gender integration. However, in both cases, we became stronger as a military despite early anxieties.
We believe repeal has challenged us to take a risk and honestly confront our fear of change.
Those who have genuinely entered this journey will walk toward a truer integrity and a more honest ability to value our peers and serve our nation. We are better servants to the nation as a result of our personal struggles with diversity, and we look forward to others joining us on the journey.
Steven M. Samuels, Ph.D. and Col. Gary A. Packard, Jr., Ph.D. are professors in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Col. Packard is Permanent Professor and Head of the Department and served as a writer on the Department of Defense’s Report of the Issues Associated with a Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Dr. Samuels has served on the Academy’s faculty since 1993 and is published in the areas of diversity and privilege. He served as an advisor and subject matter expert on the DoD study.
The views expressed above are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the policy of the United States Air Force Academy or any other government agency.