The Pride of Beale

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Benjamin Bugenig
  • 9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs

Earlier this year, Senior Airman Stacey Soto, 548th Operations Support Squadron intelligence analyst, did something no one on Beale Air Force Base has done before: she formed a private organization for LGBTQ Airmen.

“The reason I felt like I should start it is because I’m part of the community,” Soto explained. “When I was on a TDY working with a DOD company called Kessel Run, they had their own LGBTQ presence, their own community. They really empowered me, so I wanted to bring that energy and try to do that here.”

Since January, the group has gone from a couple of Soto’s friends she convinced to join, to a fully-fledged organization that includes members of all ranks, genders, and sexual orientations.

“I just asked my friends,” Soto said. “Like, ‘hey, I know you’re not really gay, but can you just come?’ It’s not just for the LGBTQ community. It’s for everyone to at least come and learn something if they want to.”

Soto and other members of the group agree that having allies in their community can be helpful, especially in a military setting.

“One of my biggest allies is a Master Sgt.  that I invited along to at least feel like there’s a presence of an NCO,” Soto said

As the group has grown, so have the ranks. The 9th Intelligence Squadron’s Chief Master Sgt. Jennifer Larson has joined the group, adding an experienced voice to their future endeavors. However, when it comes to the leadership within their organization’s committee, that’s something that Soto believes belongs to a younger generation.

“There’s so many NCO’s that could do it,” Soto explained. “But as an airman, that’s really awesome. That’s a bullet.”

Currently, the president of the LGBTQ group’s committee is Airman1st Class Charles Hamilton, a 548th OSS signals intelligence fusion analyst. He’s not just new to the Air Force, he’s also new to stepping up as a leader within the LGBTQ community.

“We talk about serious topics or we can just talk in a more relaxed way,” Hamilton said. “Like how our day’s going or just enjoy our company, as opposed to you know, the daily struggles of LGBTQ people in the military.”

The LGBTQ group initially started as a support group spawned from members of the 548th Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group, but is currently going through the process of becoming an official private organization, so  they can operate base wide instead of just from within their tenant unit. In the meantime, they’re putting their own time and money into rolling out events throughout June for Pride month.

“The events we’re putting on this month are definitely for fun,” Hamilton said. “The ultimate purpose is for LGBTQ awareness. Basically saying, hey, we exist.”

The first event being held is on June 5, which will be a panel hosted by members of the LGBTQ community to answer questions from anyone who’s curious and would like to learn more. The next events are a bake sale on June 13 and a cookout/water fight on June 21. Finally, to close out the month, a color run will be held at the trail run starting at the golf course on June 28.

“Being on the spectrum of LGBTQ and not having other people or knowing other people that are on that same spectrum is a little bit rough,” Hamilton said. “So when it comes to actually being able to go out and meet new people, and be able to relate to them with their experiences, it’s great.”