An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


NEWS | Aug. 2, 2019

Colorado Air National Guard member observes Pride Month in Afghanistan

By Tech. Sgt. Chance Johnson, Colorado National Guard Public Affairs JFHQ-Public Affairs

June is Pride Month, a time when the National Guard acknowledges soldiers and airmen who identify as lesbian, gay, transgender, and queer, and recognizes their dedicated service to their nation. As U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Laura Clellan said: “It was only a few years ago when you could not be out in the military if you were a member of the LGBTQ community. There are senior leaders in the Colorado National Guard today who served under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and had to live a closeted life to be able to serve their country. Those who served under DADT are now grateful for being able to be themselves in uniform, and contribute to the mission without looking over their shoulders." 

Maj. Noelle Roe, State Equal Employment Manager for the Colorado National Guard, said “Colorado National Guard senior leaders have made diversity and inclusion a top priority in recent years. When a soldier or airmen joins our organization, they bring with them their unique perspective, life experiences, racial and ethnic cultures and various sexual orientations.”

Roe followed this up by further emphasizing the importance of diversity, saying “As an organization, we appreciate and celebrate those differences and recognize how our differences enrich our force. Celebrating who we are and our differences is exactly what makes the Colorado National Guard a unique, yet effective, fighting force. As National Guardsmen, we look like and represent the communities we come from, which resonates with communities across the entire state of Colorado.”

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Cooper McCollum is currently deployed to Afghanistan with the 140thth Wing, Colorado Air National Guard in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and the NATO’s Resolute Support mission.

“I've grown a lot in my time with the military, and, honestly, I think the Air Force as an institution has grown a lot too. We all define ourselves in different ways, and being gay is something that I am, not something that I have chosen,” McCollum said. “I’m a huge fan of music and would much rather spend the time figuring out where we intersect in our musical preferences.”

Since the repeal of DADT in 2011, diversity and inclusiveness have been encouraged more than ever in the military and have enabled service members like McCollum to express themselves more freely in their careers.

“Under DADT, I definitely felt an apprehension to tell others I was gay,” he said. “I didn't want everyone walking on eggshells around me worrying about what they could or couldn't say in this ‘New Air Force.’”

In 2015 McCollum transferred from the Air Force Reserve to the COANG and cross-trained to Cyber Transport in the Communications Squadron at the 233d Space Group in Greeley, Colorado.

“It's by far the best move I could’ve made,” he said. “Everything about the Guard has been a home run. I love my job, I love the base up at Greeley and all the guys and gals I get to work with every day.”

In the 10 years since McCollum enlisted, he said he’s experienced a shift in climate concerning the level of acceptance and inclusion within the military.

“As a litmus test, you can really see a change in how the jokes have changed,” McCollum said. “Ragging on each other is something that, to me, exemplifies the unique work-life balance that we have in the military, and I think it's vital to unit cohesion.”

The difference, according to him, has been an awareness in finding humor in external factors.

“It's become much more common to see those jokes based on things someone can control; for example, jokes being made about a person’s choice of words versus jokes about something someone can't control.”

Humor is a tool that he said he’s used to gauge others in his environment.

“I’ve always felt that if you can't make others laugh without bringing race, sexuality, gender or disability into the punchline, then maybe you just aren't that funny.”

It seems a great challenge for an organization to encourage service members’ self-expression, while at the same time, there are those who might still feel uncomfortable with having a gay coworker. “It’s all about visibility,” McCollum said. “It’s easy at first to be apprehensive about someone’s sexuality; then, you meet someone of a different orientation and they just aren’t what you pictured. Visibility breaks down barriers quicker than anything else.”

He said that he still keeps in mind that being out in the military is a relatively new change. “That apprehension has dwindled over time, but it's still not the first thing I'm going to lead with when I meet somebody new.”

Based on his own experiences, McCollum offered guidance to any incoming service members or others who are apprehensive about coming out to their coworkers.

“I would remind them that they can tell as much or as little as they are comfortable to their fellow service members,” he said. “You have no obligation to open up about your sexuality or your gender identity to anyone if you aren’t ready.”

He further reinforced that some military members are still getting accustomed to the idea of having openly gay coworkers.

“People are curious, and sometimes boundaries get crossed, but stay patient and be communicative about your feelings. Never doubt the fact that there are a lot of good people who are ready to listen when you are comfortable enough to open up to them.”

July 2024 (4)
June 2024 (1)
May 2024 (4)
April 2024 (5)
March 2024 (5)
February 2024 (1)
January 2024 (3)
December 2023 (5)
November 2023 (3)
October 2023 (6)
September 2023 (2)
August 2023 (3)
July 2023 (6)
June 2023 (4)
May 2023 (6)
April 2023 (2)
March 2023 (2)
February 2023 (2)
January 2023 (6)
December 2022 (5)
November 2022 (5)
October 2022 (2)
September 2022 (7)
August 2022 (5)
July 2022 (3)
June 2022 (7)
May 2022 (3)
April 2022 (4)
March 2022 (3)
February 2022 (4)
January 2022 (5)
December 2021 (7)
November 2021 (3)
October 2021 (2)
September 2021 (2)
August 2021 (6)
July 2021 (4)
June 2021 (1)
May 2021 (5)
April 2021 (5)
March 2021 (5)
February 2021 (2)
January 2021 (3)
December 2020 (3)
November 2020 (7)
October 2020 (6)
September 2020 (6)
August 2020 (8)
July 2020 (9)
June 2020 (7)
May 2020 (10)
April 2020 (9)
March 2020 (2)
February 2020 (4)
January 2020 (5)
December 2019 (6)
November 2019 (2)
October 2019 (8)
September 2019 (4)
August 2019 (7)
July 2019 (5)
June 2019 (2)
May 2019 (6)
April 2019 (9)
March 2019 (2)
February 2019 (2)
January 2019 (3)
December 2018 (4)
November 2018 (6)
October 2018 (2)
September 2018 (3)
August 2018 (9)
July 2018 (1)
June 2018 (1)
May 2018 (1)
April 2018 (5)
October 2017 (1)
May 2017 (1)
April 2017 (2)
March 2017 (2)
February 2017 (3)
January 2017 (1)
November 2016 (1)
October 2016 (2)
September 2016 (5)
August 2016 (3)
July 2016 (4)
May 2016 (2)
April 2016 (3)
March 2016 (1)
February 2016 (4)
January 2016 (1)
December 2015 (1)
November 2015 (3)
October 2015 (3)
September 2015 (2)
August 2015 (1)
July 2015 (1)
June 2015 (2)
May 2015 (3)
March 2015 (1)
February 2015 (1)
October 2014 (1)
September 2014 (1)
June 2014 (1)
April 2014 (1)
May 2013 (1)
April 2013 (4)
March 2013 (8)
February 2013 (9)
January 2013 (7)
November 2012 (1)
April 2012 (2)
January 2012 (1)
March 2010 (1)