Pride Month inspires LGBTQ+ Initiative Team Published July 20, 2022 By Heather Heiney 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- Pride Month is an opportunity to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and this year it also sparked the beginning of a group who will foster a deeper understanding of LGBTQ+ people and facilitate positive change toward equity and inclusion. In April 2021, the Air Force developed the Barrier Analysis Working Group, which includes a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning Initiative Team. In May 2022 a group of Malmstrom Airmen came together to form a base-level LIT. “The LIT's biggest strength right now is its existence!” said Lt. Col. Stacy Rankin, 341st Missile Wing chief of safety. “Showing Airmen that an LGBTQ+-centric organization exists on Malmstrom and is proudly visible is important. Visibility is important. Representation is important. No one's alone out there.” With Rankin as their advisor, Malmstrom’s LIT was built by Capt. Michaela Mulokey, 341st Operations Support Squadron Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile instructor; Master Sgt. Brittany Pouliot, 341st Civil Engineer Squadron unaccompanied housing superintendent; Staff Sgt. Corey Richardson, 841st Missile Security Forces Squadron missile security controller; his wife, Tori Richardson, a contractor with the 341st Medical Group; and Senior Airman Willow Simmons-Leake, 841st MSFS fire team member. Although their first official meeting wasn’t until June 9, the team hosted several events throughout Pride Month, including weekly coffee talks, panel discussions, a drag trivia night and a Pride festival. “Our goal going into Pride Month was to foster a sense of community and let everyone know we are here,” Mulokey said. “We just wanted to announce our presence and let people know that LGBTQ members are here and that we matter and we face issues that maybe not everyone else faces – but we’re here and we’re willing to serve.” Topics of the coffee talks and panel discussions included: local safe spaces and areas of concern, fun with flags, pronouns, gender vs. sex, transitioning in the military and being LGBTQ+ in the military. “It also gives people the opportunity to learn so that they don’t feel embarrassed by asking questions,” Tori said. The LIT is currently in the process of planning and developing the strategic plan for their team, and beginning in September, they plan to open up their meetings to anyone on base who would like to get involved. So far, the team’s lines of effort include training and education, collecting data and conducting research on the experiences of LGBTQ+ military members and their dependents, removing workplace barriers, partnering with the local community, and promoting an open and understanding environment. “The biggest focus is going to be geared more toward education at all levels,” Corey said. “A lot of the coffee talk topics during the Pride events are what we’re gearing toward and commanders can pull us in to talk about any of the different sections.” “I think there is a sense of unknown still about the community as a whole, so making people more comfortable in having that culture change is of huge importance for us going forward, not just during Pride Month but throughout the year,” Pouliot said. The whole team added that they are, “super stoked,” about what they hope their team will accomplish and would like to let commanders across the base know that beginning in September, they will be available to provide academic products or to lead discussions within squadrons about LGBTQ+ issues. “We’re super excited to see how this grows not only for what we have currently, but for future Airmen or civilians down the line and just the community in general; I’d like to see where this goes,” Tori said.