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AWACS PRIDE flight honors diversity and inclusion

  • Published
  • By Kimberly Woodruff 72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Members of the 552nd Air Control Wing made history June 23 as they honored the LGBTQ+ community and celebrated their PRIDE with a flight.

A nearly all LGBTQ+ crew participated in an E-3 Airborne Warning and Control Systems sortie where they also teamed up with their ground command and control counterparts, the 726th Air Control Squadron, 552 ACW at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.

The flight was also refueled by an LGBTQ+ tanker crew from the 92 nd Air Refueling Wing, Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington.

“Socially, pride isn’t about religion or hatred, but is about spreading love and acceptance of others regardless of your own personal opinions,” said Capt. Gregory St. Clair, a flight  commander with the 963rd Airborne Air Control Squadron. “Diversity is inherently an American strength and by creating a space that celebrates our differences, we honor our Airmen, retain their talent and encourage them to become the best leaders for our military.

 “I’m hoping this is the first of many pride flights in the future and I hope that if nothing else, after this week the LGBTQ+ community will be that much more connected and highlighted and celebrated by people outside who may not have known we exist.”

St. Clair joined the Air Force prior to the repealing of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” something he has in common with Capt. Brandon Sabin, a navigator with the 963rd AACS.

“With all of the stresses that come with being a military aviator, the 552 has provided an environment that ensures my identity isn’t one of those stresses,” said Sabin. “The ability to openly celebrate pride and especially to be on today’s flight is an inspiration for me, and I hope, to others as well.”  

St. Clair said he wanted to showcase the LGBTQ+ community with a flight much like the heritage flights, and his leadership supported the decision telling him this is a safe zone.

“When I put out the call, the response was overwhelming,” said St. Clair. “This is a combat Air Force and it isn’t just command and control, but fighters, maintainers and refueling crews who are members of the LGBTQ+ community.”

Sabin said, “Events like this are outward demonstrations of the Air Force's continuing dedication to the welfare of its people, and they provide examples of how diversity and inclusion contribute to a stronger force overall.”

Col. Keven Coyle, commander of the 552nd Air Control Wing believes that diversity is strength.

“The LGBTQ+ community is a diverse and often intersectional community, making the Air Force stronger through skills and experiences its members bring to the greater team,” said Coyle. “The Air Force is about building an inclusive environment for everyone to thrive and we welcome and fully support that in America’s wing.”