Grand Forks AFB celebrates inclusive culture with pride month

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Raisa Christie
  • 319th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs

Rainbow powder flew in the air above an active 2K trail on June 27 as the Diversity and Inclusion Council wrapped up its Pride Month recognition on a colorful note honoring lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer U.S. military members who served the country. A pride-themed color run was one of the many base-wide events that the pride sector hosted throughout June with the goal to educate the community on positive impacts that LGBTQ U.S. military members make serving their country. Events were intended to create a culture of understanding as the club showcased how Grand Forks Air Force Base recognizes the hard work of all members. 

The month began with an opening ceremony at the dining facility, donning informational posters about LGBTQ history in the U.S. military. Col. Timothy Curry, prior commander of the 319th Reconnaissance Wing, and Col. Delbert Rivera, vice commander of the 319th RW, arrived to share lunch with attendees and listened to those who identify as LGBTQ share their experiences in the military.

“It was late in my career when ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ was lifted, and since then it’s been so great to see change in the Air Force when it comes to inclusion and diversity,” Rivera said. “I’m proud to see events like these.”

Curry joined Pride Month event planner, Airman 1st Class Salaphaty Rao Marrao, a 319th Comptroller Squadron financial analyst, in cutting a rainbow cake which colors signified the celebration of LGBTQ troops.

Marrao said although every event on Grand Forks AFB was intended to be fun, the objective was to prioritize education about LGBTQ talent in the U.S. military.

The Pride Month team accomplished their educational goal by creating informative posters and puzzles while ensuring there were speakers at every event.

In a “Brunch and Learn” meet-up, open to the community, the pride sector played a live LGBTQ panel broadcast hosted by Minot AFB airmen. Patrons listened to the panel answer tough questions about navigating the military, and their opinions about the current political climate.

During the Brunch and Learn, Capt. Nikita Lettunich, Special Missions Flight commander of the 319th Communications Squadron, said she hoped the events here foster greater awareness, acceptance and inclusion within military and civilian communities.

“By acknowledging and celebrating this month, the Air Force sends a powerful message that it values and supports all its service members, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Lettunich. “It demonstrates that the Air Force is committed to creating an environment where everyone can thrive and contribute to the mission despite their background. Recognizing Pride Month helps to attract and retain talented individuals who might otherwise be hesitant to join the military due to concerns about acceptance and inclusivity.”

Brunch included homemade pastries created by the community in a baking competition called "The Grand Forks AFB Great Bake-Off”. Members of the 319th RW First Sergeant council were the panel judges.

Other events consisted of a family movie night at the Prairie Chapel showing Disney’s 2021 Luca and a trivia game held at the J.R. Rockers Club on base.  

The trivia night hosted visitors who exercised their pop culture knowledge on LGBTQ figures. The Pride sector achieved their goal in sharing an opportunity for the base to show solidarity for all airmen.

“Grand Forks Air Force base has strong leaders who are willing to listen and show support,” said Marrao. “The U.S. Air Force recognizes special observances because it ensures that if its airmen are taken care of, then the overall mission remains successful.”