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Air Force creates new LGBTQ ‘diversity and inclusion’ panels

Hanscom Airforce Base personnel participate in a 5K Rainbow Run on base June 29. (U.S. Air Force photo by Linda LaBonte Britt)
May 04, 2021

Last week, the U.S. Air Force announced the launch of two new diversity and inclusion programs, including a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning initiative team (LIT) and the Indigenous Nations Equality Teams (INET).

The two panels are intended to identify barriers affecting the employment, advancement and retention of members of those two identity groups.

“The establishment of these two teams builds on the successes of the Department of the Air Force’s other teams and allows the Department of the Air Force to identify and address the issues impacting diversity and inclusion for Airmen and Guardians,” the Air Force said in an April 26 press release.

Maj. Gen. Leah Lauderback, one of the founders of LIT, said, “I expect our group will grow–our community and allies want to help!”

The INET, focused on indigenous service members, will look into what factors may affect hiring, promoting and retaining “American Indian/Native American and Alaska Native employees and military members.”

Col. Terrence Adams, a proponent of INET, said, “We are hoping to identify changes that will eliminate barriers affecting members within these groups. We cannot be aware of things that need to change unless we are talking about them with an open mind.”

The two new diversity panels fall under the umbrella of the Air Force’s Barrier Analysis Working Group (BAWG). The Air Force established the BAWG in 2008 to analyze barriers that may exist within the service’s civilian workforce. Other diversity panels formed under the BAWG include the Black/African American Employment Strategy Team, Disability Action Team, Hispanic Empowerment and Action Team, Pacific Islander/Asian American Community Team, and Women’s Initiatives Team.

Gwendolyn DeFilippi, the assistant deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, said, “Once again, our Airmen and Guardians are leading the way. With the addition of these two groups, we will have a better understanding of barriers to service which allows us to enhance our diversity and inclusion. Our Airmen and Guardians are the pulse of our Department’s culture and the diverse backgrounds. Inputs from these volunteer groups is vital.”

Various BAWG groups have been involved in advising past policy changes throughout the military. reported the Women’s Initiative Team was instrumental in pushing for the creation of specialized maternity flight suits for pregnant servicewomen. The maternity flight suits were the subject of recent controversy after Fox News host Tucker Carlson accused the military of prioritizing identity politics over the combat effectiveness and general readiness of the force.

The creation of the LGBTQ panel comes 10 years after the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the legislation that prohibited LGB service members from openly serving.