NEWS | June 17, 2021

‘Pride in all who serve' - JBSA pilot breaking barriers for LGBTQ community

By Erinn Burgess, 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Joint Base San Antonio joins the Department of Defense and the Nation in paying tribute to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer community during Pride Month.

For the month of June, this celebration brings light to the way LGBTQ service members and civilians have strengthened our military and our country with the theme, “Pride in all who serve.”

“Throughout history, LGBTQ service members and civilians have bravely served and defended our country,” said Maria Rodriguez, JBSA Affirmative Employment Program manager. “Their commitment to service has made our military stronger and the nation safer. Diversity is more than race, gender and ethnicity – it means diversity of thought, ability, background, language, culture and skill.”

“One of the wonderful things about the Air Force has been its humility in realizing that our branch has grown and changed just like the country has. Diversity and inclusion have improved our service in so many ways,” said Capt. Mackenzie Schofield, who is training to become a T-1 instructor pilot with the 99th Flying Training Squadron, 12th Flying Training Wing, at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph.

Schofield, who commissioned from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2013, knew from a young age she wanted to be an Air Force pilot, following in her father’s footsteps who served for 27 years.

“My family has always served, and I knew I wanted to be part of that legacy. I wanted to serve my country, I wanted adventure, and I wanted to know what I was doing made a difference.”

In addition to her daily duties, Schofield is also serving the LGBTQ community as a member of the Air Force’s LGBTQ Initiative Team, or LIT, championed by Maj. Gen. Leah Lauderback, director of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for the U.S. Space Force.

The purpose of LIT is to encourage belonging within the LGBTQ community and continue to expand the Air Force's inclusive military workforce, Schofield explained.

The team works to identify barriers and recommend changes that enhance the ability of the LGBTQ community to serve with pride without diminishing the experience for everyone else; raise awareness about the community, break barriers in place, and educate when necessary; and create a community for LGBTQ members and allies to have a place within the service to support one another through triumphs and roadblocks.

Changing policy starts with changing hearts and minds, as well as the culture of service, she said.

“I just want to be treated the same, and for people to not change their opinion of me when I say ‘wife’ when they expect me to say ‘husband,’” said Schofield, who celebrates five years of marriage with her wife Jennica this month. “Being a part of the LGBTQ community is only one small part of who I am, and when I describe myself I use terms like ‘wife, daughter, sister, Airman, pilot, friend,’ which are what I want people to focus on more than the single thing that makes me stand out.

“I think it's important to emphasize the fact that LGBTQ members don't exist in our own world,” she added. “We are coworkers, neighbors, friends and family members. I'm proud to be a part of the LGBTQ community, but I am equally as proud to be a pilot in the Air Force, a member of my community, and will always strive to be a good human being.”

During a Pride Month event at the Pentagon earlier this month, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said, “Nobody should have to hide who they love to serve the country they love. And no service member who is willing to put their life on the line to keep our country safe should feel unsafe because of who they are.”

In celebration of Pride Month, JBSA will display Pride Month posters across the installation. Posters will be displayed at all JBSA libraries and Military and Family Readiness Centers as well. For more information, contact the Civilian Personnel Section at 210-221-1408 or usaf.jbsa.502-abw.mbx.jbsa-fsh-cps@mail.mil.