NAS PENSACOLA, Fla. (NNS) -- Questions and answers with Air Traffic Controlman 2nd Class Joshua Nichols, vice president, NAS Pensacola Diversity Committee.
Briefly describe your career in the military.
I have worked as an air traffic controller in the Navy for four years. Prior to this, I served in the Army for six and a half years as a multiple launch rocket systems operator, with a secondary occupational specialty in supply and logistics. Basically, I worked inside of an armored tank that launched rockets.
What do you consider the purpose of the Diversity Committee?
Our purpose is to celebrate diverse groups of individuals serving within our ranks and to educate and bring awareness to positive progression that has occurred. Our goal is to show that there is strength through diversity within our ranks across the military.
What are some things you think people should know about diversity within the military?
Diversity makes us stronger, better equipped, and more lethal to support, defend and protect the United States, as well as support our allies. With the Armed Forces embracing diversity, it allows men and women from all walks of life, racial and ethnic backgrounds, cultures, and sexual orientations to come together as one team to defend the free world.
What kind of events do you hold to spread your message?
Every month, the Diversity Committee will hold a gathering on base that is themed after the monthly heritage observance whether that be Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage month, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride month, and so on. We will put together a presentation to show off some facts about progression in the ranks for that specific celebration month. Additionally, we will locate an honored guest speaker that has served as a pioneer in that specific group to promote diversity and set the path forward for generations to come.
How do you feel about the progress the military has made with the LGBT
I cannot express to you enough how proud I am on the progress the military has made with the inclusion of the LGBT community within the ranks. Growing up in a small, very conservative town in the south, my life style was not very popular nor accepted. I grew up hiding who I was my entire life not even telling any of my closest friends about the fact that I was a gay man. I enlisted into the Army in 2010, which was significant for me because the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy was still in place. For nearly two years, I served under this policy having to hide who I was until the United States Congress officially repealed the policy in December of that same year, with the DOD having a timeline to fully implement the policies repeal in the 2011 calendar year. For the first time ever after that repeal, I could begin to be who I truly was and be supported and embraced by many of my brothers and sisters in uniform who were already supporting me even when the policy was still in place. The very fact that I am answering questions about this topic considering where my career started makes me very proud.
What does it mean to you that the Navy celebrates LGBT month?
Seeing the Navy celebrate LGBT month is a very proud moment for me thinking back to the fact that I served for nearly two years under the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' during my tour in the United States Army. Something that could have removed me from the ranks before is now something that is embraced and celebrated. This is a remarkable time for me to serve. I can now fully cultivate my leadership and operational talents without the lagging distraction or weight of knowing I could be removed from the service had the right person found out about my lifestyle.
What hardships do LGBT people in the military still face?
Although it is largely embraced by many members within the ranks and is now DOD policy and law to allow full inclusion, not all view it this way. We still have some work to do on moving forward within the military. That is where the Diversity Committee comes into play to celebrate, educate, and inform members on the positive changes that come with this diverse inclusion.
What kind of shift have you noticed in the culture towards being more accepting and open to other service members that are LGBT?
With the policy changing in 2010 with the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,’ I immediately began to see a shift of culture within the military and society. Since these landmark changes, support across the nation has continued to rise and the inclusion and acceptance of LGBT men and women has been more accepted than at any other time in our nation’s great history. I am a proud American.
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