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Air Force forms teams to address LGBTQ, Indigenous issues

Maj. Gen. Leah G. Lauderback is one of the founders of the Air Force's newly formed LGBTQ Initiative Team. Photo courtesy of Air Force
Maj. Gen. Leah G. Lauderback is one of the founders of the Air Force's newly formed LGBTQ Initiative Team. Photo courtesy of Air Force

April 27 (UPI) -- The Air Force has formally established two teams to identify and address issues affecting LGBTQ people and Indigenous people in the service.

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning Initiative Team and the Indigenous Nations Equality Teams were formed under the umbrella of the Air Force's Barrier Analysis Working Group, according to a press release from the service.

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"Once again, our airmen and guardians are leading the way. With the addition of these two groups, we will have a better understanding of barriers to service which allows us to enhance our diversity and inclusion," said Gwendolyn DeFilippi, assistant deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services for the Air Force.

The release notes that the formation of the LGBTQ initiative team comes 10 years after the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, which prohibited lesbian, gay and bisexual service members from serving openly.

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"I expect our group will grow-our community and allies want to help," Maj. Gen. Leah Lauderback, one of the group's founders and its military officer champion, said in the Air Force's release.

The INET's acronym is a play on words for the term "Innit," a slang term among Native Americans meaning, "Yes, I agree," according to the release.

The group is tasked with reviewing and analyzing guidelines, programs, data and other information for barriers to employment, advancement and retention of Native American and Alaska Native employees and military members.

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"We are looking forward to representing our Airmen and Guardians who are a part of the indigenous nation's community," said Col. Terrence Adams, INET champion. "We are hoping to identify changes that will eliminate barriers affecting members within these groups. We cannot be aware of things that need to change unless we are talking about them with an open mind."

Both teams could also serve as an initial member/employer resource group for their communities, the Air Force said.

The Air Force created the BAWG in 2008 to analyze data, trends and barriers to service for the civilian workforce, with the group's focus expanding to include personnel issues in subsequent years.

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As of March 2021, the Air Force has also established the Black/African American Employment Strategy Team, the Disability Action Team, the Hispanic Empowerment and Action Team, the Pacific Islander/Asian American Community Team and the Women's Initiatives Team.

Earlier this month the Air Force began a survey for its second Inspector General's report on diversity and disparity in its ranks.

The review follows a 2020 report, which focused on racial disparity among Black members of the military branch, where the second survey expands the focus to other ethnicities and also examines the role of gender in the branch.

The first review found that Black men at every level of the service experience disproportionately negative outcomes at nearly every level, including increased likelihood of court-martials and less likely to be placed in fields that offer opportunities for advancement.

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