NEWS | Aug. 2, 2021

Pride: Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling sees strength in commitment to diversity, inclusion

By Brian Nestor Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling Public Affairs

Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C. continued its commitment to diversity and inclusion when it joined the nation in supporting the LGBTQ community during the entire month of June. Yet, it’s important to remember that these monthly observances are about more than just the month in which they’re observed.

Every individual has their own unique story and own view of what Pride Month means to them year round.

“For me, pride is having the confidence to be who I am and to say who I am and who I am married to,” said U.S Air Force Master Sgt. Adria Winlock, 11th Civil Engineer Squadron first sergeant. “Having people see what our family looks like without fear of that impacting my career or my livelihood – that is pride to me. I have the confidence to be open about that part of my life so that other people that I work with will see that it’s ok.”

Winlock has more than 18 years of service in the Air Force. She began serving when the policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, or DADT, was still in effect. For 17 years, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell prohibited military members from either asking or sharing their sexual orientation.

Winlock, who is married to her wife with whom she has three children, said that policy was challenging for her.

“Knowing that I was this person and I would not be able to serve in the military – that had a significant impact on me,” Winlock stated. “Just hearing the way people felt about it so openly before Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed created higher levels of apprehension for whenever I did come out.”

When DADT was repealed on Sept. 20, 2011, service members no longer were required by policy to hide their sexual identity. Instead, policy allowed them to serve proudly and openly identifying as a member of the LGBTQ community.

“Pride means that I can live my life openly and unapologetically,” said by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt.Tiara Bradford, 11th CES NCO in charge of requirements.

Bradford, who has been married to her wife for four years, has served in the Air Force for eight years. She was already serving in the Air Force when DADT was repealed. Having joined after the repeal of DADT, Bradford said she feels like she can be the person she chooses to be even while serving in the military.

While the repeal of DADT was a success for furthering the Department of Defense efforts to seek strength through diversity, challenges continue in educating those who are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with lifestyles dissimilar to their own.
 
Winlock has experienced those moments in her career where Airmen have not been accepting of her family makeup. Other parents have not wanted their children to play together, some have said they shouldn’t have to work with her because Winlock is a lesbian, and Winlock has seen disparaging text messages sent about her.

“In all of those situations, I had to separate myself from the personal to the actual situation so I would be able to deal with it. I kept reminding myself to have the emotional maturity to realize their comments were not personal,” said Winlock. “The only way to eliminate that kind of behavior is to continue being an example of how we should treat and respect people while also holding those accountable that don’t do the same.”

Winlock’s unit leadership has been appreciative of her presence in the squadron, as well as in the way she handles these and other situations as a first sergeant.

“The 11th Civil Engineer Squadron couldn’t have a better first sergeant than Master Sgt. Adria Winlock. She’s humble, hungry and smart,” said Lt. Col. Steven Schuldt, 11th CES commander. “I am thankful that as a member of the LGBTQ community, she has the opportunity to serve openly, which wouldn’t have been the case just 10 years ago. Our squadron and the Air Force is significantly better with her in it.”

Both Bradford and Winlock have persevered through adversity. Bradford has experienced her own challenges, mostly fielding some ignorant questions about her marriage. Otherwise, she has not faced the same fears as Winlock with concern for how her orientation would affect her career.

The progress the service has made to make the Air Force a more diverse, inclusive and ready force ensures those who identify as being LGBTQ can continue to excel based on their merit and commitment to service.

“Staff Sergeant Bradford is a top-notch NCO and is always ready to provide excellent customer service to our wing and mission partners on behalf of the 11th Civil Engineer Squadron,” said Maj. Melissa Jumper, 11th CES operations flight commander. “She’s an incredible asset to the team and always ready to tackle any challenge we throw at her!”

Serving openly and proudly for a country that values who you are as a person is what Pride Month celebrates. This sentiment is felt year round, however, as the Air Force celebrates and appreciates Airmen’s diverse background and lifestyles.

It is more than celebrating only in the month in which an observance falls; it is the continuous goal to achieve a culture of inclusion where every member is respected and valued for his or her identity, culture, and background.

“Every day it is getting better, and the only way that’s is going to continue to improve is to improve diversity across the board – not just for the LGBTQ community, but for everyone,” Winlock stated. “Be a part of the forward momentum that is going on.”