AFMC Command News

Mentoring event emphasizes support, “Pride in all who serve”

  • Published
  • By Michele Donaldson
  • Air Force Materiel Command

The Air Force Materiel Command hosted a virtual Cross-Cultural Mentoring Panel in conjunction with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Plus (LGBTQ+) Pride Month, June 19. 

The theme of the discussion was, “Pride in all who serve.”

“The goal is to have an engaging discussion celebrating the diversity of all Airmen, both military and civilian, and sharing mentoring practices that will help everyone in AFMC succeed in their career goals,” said moderator, Brianna Russ, AFMC Anti-Harassment Program Manager, in opening remarks.

The panel included Maj. Jason Vero, Director 316th Wing Plans and Programs, Joint Base Andrews; David Holtzapple, Resource Program Analyst, Headquarters AFMC; Tech. Sgt. Jenna Farthing, Flight Chief, 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Training Squadron, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base; Staff Sgt. Ashley Basham, Contracting Officer, Air Force Sustainment Center, Hill AFB, Utah; and Laura Peliti, Management Analyst, Tinker AFB, Okla.

“Because I am out, I am usually the catch-all for anyone who has questions, and they expect me to know everything,” said Peliti on the many identities present on the panel and in the LGBTQ+ community. “I always caveat conversations with telling people to remember I am not representative of every single person in the community. The important thing to know with all identities is that as humans we are growing and evolving, and our understanding of language is growing and evolving too.”

Vero was asked what tips he had for mentors trying to set up an environment where mentees would feel comfortable about sharing their LGBTQ+ identities.

“You set the stage as you would for any demographic,” he said. “Let people know you care about them as a person.”

One technique he mentioned is for new mentors is to provide an intake sheet asking mentees about major life milestones coming up, major stressors, favorite hobbies and activities, and then following that up with a genuine conversation.

“I like the subtle way of showing support,” said Vero.

Several panelists mentioned using MyVECTOR profiles for seeking or becoming mentors.

“MyVECTOR is helpful in career development and in building relationships. Right now, there are lots of life categories such as ‘divorced with kids,’ ‘married without kids,” Peliti said. “I’d like to see them expand the categories to include LGBTQ+ options so that people can find mentors that are of like mind and experience.”

Having leaders who are open and supportive is critical for success.

“I am comfortable being out, and because of that, I think I have created a safe space for others to approach me and talk,” said Peliti, “I am lucky that my organization is supportive, but not everyone has that in their work area.”

Russ put in a plug for adding pronouns to signature blocks.

“Adding your pronouns does not mean you are trans or gay, but it does show that you are an ally and a safe place,” she said.

All agreed that treating people with respect and empathy, while providing a listening ear, goes a long way towards ensuring that Airmen can overcome obstacles and do their jobs to the best of their abilities.

There are many resources that those in the LGBTQ+ community and allies can use to become more informed. Talking with diversity champions like those on the panel, contacting the Air Force Equal Employment Opportunity program offices, and learning about the LGBTQ+ Initiative Team (LIT) are beneficial first steps for supervisors, coworkers, and family members. There are also a variety of courses available on the Department of the Air Force Learning Services site.

AFMC recognizes the value of diversity and continues efforts to promote acceptance and inclusion through conversations such as this and other Cross-Cultural Mentoring events.

View the event recording: 

On July 31, AFMC will host a mentoring panel on civilian mentoring, agility and adaptability in the workplace. The Aug. 20 mentoring event will focus generations in the workplace.

To learn more about mentoring and about future events, visit https://www.afmc.af.mil/careers/AFMC-Mentoring.