DAHLGREN, Va. – Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) joined the Navy and the nation in recognizing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month with a ceremony at the University of Mary Washington Dahlgren campus, July 7.
The LGBT community is part of the Naval Sea Systems Command Warfare Centers and the Naval Support Activity South Potomac team that contributes their diverse talents, skills and service to the strength of the force.
“Our success at NSWCDD depends upon the talents and hard work of a multi-faceted workforce -- inclusive of men and women of all backgrounds,” NSWCDD Commanding Officer Capt. Godfrey ‘Gus’ Weekes told military members, government civilians, and contractors in attendance.
Initially established as "Gay and Lesbian Month" by Presidential Proclamation in 2000, LGBT Pride Month recognizes the accomplishments of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
“Today’s observance is more than following policy,” said Weekes. “LGBT Pride Month affirms our commitment to increase awareness, mutual respect, and understanding of all members of our workforce. Let’s take the theme ‘Ask, Share and Learn’ to heart and embrace knowing more about our colleagues and celebrating our collective diversity.”
Donna Powell and Aide Sanchez of the Fredericksburg Area HIV AIDS Support Services (FAHASS) spoke about their mission and efforts related to the 2017 LGBT theme – "Understanding through Education: Ask, Share, Learn.”
They informed the Dahlgren audience about FAHASS services and responded to various questions with information and anecdotes that increased knowledge and awareness of LGBT issues and challenges. The private, nonprofit organization’s mission is to positively impact individual and community health by providing integrated wellness, prevention, and health navigation services.
Established in 2009 for the month of June, LGBT Pride Month promotes and encourages a celebration of honesty and openness within the LGBT community. The LGBT movement was later strengthened by the repeal of the 2011 Don't Ask, Don't Tell Act creating a landmark for our country's service members and allowing gay, lesbian and bisexuals to serve openly in the United States Armed Forces.
“On a personal note, during this time surrounding the repeal, there was a clarifying moment for me as I reflected on Adm. (Mike) Mullen’s directive to live by the Navy’s core values of honor, courage, and commitment,” said Weekes. “I gave deeper thought to the implications of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and my perspective of the repeal crystalized. If we can’t honor each and every one for who they are and the totality of who they are, then we are not living by our own creed and motto.”
As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mullen declared his support to end the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy while testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 2, 2010.
"Speaking for myself and myself only, it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do," Mullen testified before the committee on that day. "No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens."
Once the repeal was announced on Sept. 20, 2011, Mullen said that, “today, with implementation of the new law fully in place, we are a stronger joint force, a more tolerant force, a force of more character and more honor, more in keeping with our own values.”
Moreover, the Department of Defense (DoD) human goal to create an environment that values diversity is fostering mutual respect and cooperation among all persons and fully recognizes that the sacrifices of LGBT military members are no different than anyone else serving.
Anthony Kurta – performing the duties of undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness while speaking at a Pentagon LGBT Pride event last month – made it clear that DoD recognizes all military and civilian men and women who serve and are part of the LBGT community as equal, contributing members of the total force.
“Diversity is more than race, gender and ethnicity. It includes, among other things, the diversity of thought, diversity of ability, diversity of background, diversity of language, of culture and skill. It is very broad,” Kurta told the Pentagon audience. And, whether in the Fleet, in the field, or in the wing, at home or abroad, Kurta said, “we recognize all men and women of the United States armed forces, civilians and contractors, as equal, contributing members of the DoD total force.”
Eight days after last year’s Dahlgren LGBT observance, the Secretary of Defense announced that transgender individuals can openly serve in the U.S. armed forces. The policy was phased in during a one-year period. Since June 30, 2016 - service members could no longer be involuntarily separated, discharged or denied reenlistment solely on the basis of gender identity. Service members on duty are able to serve openly.
The 2016 DoD transgender policy also outlines responsibilities for military services and commanders to develop and implement guidance, training and specific policies in the near and long-term.
“We need to ensure that we don’t have any artificial barriers keeping us from doing our job,” said Weekes, restating his June 15 message to all hands at NSWCDD.
“We are all different, but we are working toward the same goal - expanding the advantage,” Weekes continued in his all hands communique. “When you hear about events like these, make a point to go to them and learn something new about your co-workers. As always here at Dahlgren, we celebrate the diversity of our workforce and the value of our collective uniqueness. I encourage you to remain mindful of the role you play in ensuring fair and equal treatment across our workforce. Our differences are embedded in our strengths which allow us to achieve our goal of maintaining maritime superiority.”
For more information about LGBT Pride Month and upcoming events, visit: http://www.deomi.org/human-relations/special-observances.cfm and the Library of Congress website at https://www.loc.gov/lgbt-pride-month/