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Serving with Pride

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Stephanie Henry, 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs Office

Over the years, the United States Armed Forces has taken steps to make diversity and inclusion a reality for all ranks. 

Like many in the LGBTQ+ community, Col. Casey Guerrero has witnessed the progression from being totally banned to now being able to openly serve as part of the Department of Defense’s stance on diversity and inclusion.

“When we talk about diversity and inclusion, they should be balanced,” said Guerrero, an Air Mobility Command Directorate of Operations, Strategic Deterrence, and Nuclear Integration Reserve advisor to the director of operations. “That ‘and’ is very important because you can’t have one without the other.”

He said that people need to look at the talent on a team: one person might be stronger in one area, while another is stronger elsewhere. Using all of those talents together is diversity. “Taking those talents to help one another overcome obstacles and grow to be a better person, now that’s inclusive.”  

Between 1980 and 1990, an average of 1,500 servicemembers were discharged per year on the basis of sexual orientation. In 1993, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was signed by President Bill Clinton officially barring openly gay and lesbian citizens from serving their country. This policy, however, allowed closeted LGBTQ+ members to serve. 

Guerrero entered the service under this policy, but he did not let it discourage him, and he graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1999.

“I haven’t let that part [sexual orientation] define who I am,” Guerrero said. “It’s a part of who I am, but I don’t let that take center stage. [We should look at] the overall person – your skill set, your professionalism, your core values and your ethics … all while still being allowed to be yourself.”

Military members have always had to abide by a commonality of rules, regulations and responsibilities defining how to dress, act and perform.

“We can still be authentic and that’s what's amazing about the military. We always have been [powerful as a military service], but it’s more powerful when [we] can be who we really are.” 

The Obama administration repealed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in 2011, allowing for service members to openly serve without fear of punitive action. . 

“When you take a snapshot of the military, you should see what America represents - different backgrounds, different religions and different orientations. We should be no different. We are a reflection of that,” he said.