VILSECK, Germany – The month of June marks Pride Month, a nationwide observance recognized by the U.S. Department Defense to recognize servicemembers of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning community. Welcoming diversity within the formation increases talent, morale and effectiveness and upholds the Army values of integrity and respect.In honor of Pride Month, U.S. Army Capt. Aaron Pell, 1st Lt. Nicholas Correll and Spc. Monique Young, assigned to the Regimental Support Squadron, 2d Cavalry Regiment, all of whom are members of the LGBTIQ community, reflect on the positive changes within the military, on opportunities of improvement and on how they and others can advocate on behalf of the community.On Sept. 20, 2011, former President Barack Obama signed legislation to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” ending the U.S. military policy to bar openly gay servicemembers.“I remember where I was; I was in my barracks room at the time,” said Pell, a Chicago native who at the time was a cadet at West Point, the United States Military Academy.“I’d be lying if I didn’t say the first thing I felt was fear because you just didn’t know. There was obviously a pride piece, but we didn’t know how it was going to play out. We didn’t know what it was going to look like at West Point amongst my classmates.”For many, the trepidation would pass, and happiness came as members of the LGBTIQ community gained their footing, no longer having to hide a part of themselves and participate in activities in support of Pride Month and beyond according to Pell.“It, to be statistical, was about the same; we were just doing it in the open,” said Pell on whether or not if participation in activities to support the LGBTIQ community increased.More positive changes within training and observances of the LGBTIQ community came about due to the implementation of policies from 2015 to 2016 such as the U.S. Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage and extending benefits to same-sex spouses for military members.“I really started seeing change in about 2017 [and] 2018,” said Pell. “That was when I started to see different commands, starting in more [U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command], and then, [it] started going out to operational Army, in terms of doing just events.”Pell elaborated that these policies also gave more freedom to senior Army leaders, such as generals and senior enlisted personnel, to have broader left and right limits for what and how they could support.“Now, I’m starting to see more things like interviewing and actually talking to LGBTIQ folks, not just having events but showcasing what we contribute to the force, as well,” said Pell.Pennsylvania natives, Correll and Young, noted how they also see positive changes in public spaces such as social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Young elaborated.“There is not a huge amount of representation, but there is change,” said Young. “Slowly but surely, it’s like progressively trying to expand.”Pell, who has served in the U.S. Army for five years as a logistics officer and will soon take command, believes that there is room for more strides to be made.“What I haven’t seen enough of is just the conversation about some of the unique things that are out there, both internal to a post and external, in terms of celebrations [and] in terms of communities [with] just baseline information,” said Pell. “There are also unique medical things available to the LGBTIQ community that very few people know about that enable us to have safer, healthier lives.”Young, a culinary specialist looking to enroll into the hospitality and management program with Central Texas College, also believes that opportunities to improve support for the LGBTIQ community starts by raising awareness and access to resources.“I found out through a friend that they actually do have Pride parades and stuff going on in Germany, which I didn’t know about last year,” said Young. “So, I couldn’t partake because I didn’t know, [and] I just got here, too. Just more information [and] different resources on where to reach out or different ways to connect with other people in the community you probably see all of the time but don’t realize you have that in common.”One of the ways to raise awareness and increase access to resources begins with education according to Pell and Young.“One of the things I myself have focused on is really educating my fellow company commanders, which is the lowest level of command,” said Pell. “They’re going to be the ones that best enable a lot of those things, a lot of that information flow [and] access to resources.”“I think [we need] more things like this [interview] particularly during Pride Month but [also] year-round,” continued Pell, noting that supporting the LGBTIQ community is important not just for diversity but to also leverage the community, which creates a stronger Army.Young stated how she, too, educates others.“I feel like at times some of my friends who aren’t a part of the community look to me for certain questions that they have about understanding different things within the community, nothing really negative or anything like that,” said Young.“[I] just try to better educate people because there are still some things that they don’t understand or just can't quite make sense of. It’s a lot to take in if you really think about the whole community. There is a lot that goes into it, so just keep an open mind and be willing to listen.”Pell hopes to encourage others to advocate through accountability both on and off military bases as a U.S. Soldier and leader, realizing that if he himself did not advocate for others how could he expect others to do so.“I do hold people strictly accountable to just basic Army policy related to SHARP and EO in the sense of mostly the words they use,” said Pell.“I provide that as an officer [and] as a leader in particular as someone who has suffered under that kind of language and been ostracized accordingly. I advocate, I inform, and then I hold people accountable. I’m just upholding Army policy. The policy says don’t use words that ostracize people.”Another way to improve upon support is through equal opportunity training.“In general, a lot of [LGBTIQ] EO training doesn’t get the attention like the [sexual harassment/assault response and prevention program] does, for example,” said Correll. “So, like when you see SHARP training usually there’s skits and all kinds of things involved like that.”The difficulty within incidents that involve SHARP are compounded when they intersect with members of the LGBTIQ community. Therefore, highlighting methods of prevention and intervention are key in both EO and SHARP training, and it starts with inclusion of this community.“For instance, if a gay Soldier gets raped, not many commanders fall into [the LGBTIQ community], so they’re not prepared because I know it actually happened on this post,” elaborated Correll. “I don’t think the awareness on the community and training is where it needs to be. It’s usually a tail end of EO training. It’s in the training to check that block, but is it really being discussed?”Correll also noted that change often starts with self and utilized the Soldier spotlight as a way to not only come out but also to set an example for others.“The reason I am doing this is because if I am afraid to do that, to be open about it, why shouldn’t the Soldiers be,” said Correll. “Because I’m the executive officer of the troop, I’m in the top three of the troop. If I’m afraid of that, shouldn’t the new private coming to the unit be afraid?”Wanting to be measured by his work as a Soldier and not by his orientation, Correll continued, “I would say even if you’re not about advocating for it, when they see this interview, just come to work the next day and just let it be [that day].”Pell agrees that the first step often begins with coming out and making yourself available.“The more recent thing that I’ve done is to make sure that I come out to pretty much all of the commanders,” said Pell. “The reason for that is to basically make myself available to them for questions about the medical side of things. I make myself available to be an information bringer and then, also, someone to talk to.”Pell urges, whether members of the LGBTIQ community or not, to advocate.“If they’re straight but not allies, become allies. If they are LGBTIQ, do advocacy to the point one is comfortable [with],” said Pell. “Nobody should walk in the door of a federal job, the U.S. government’s workspace, and not feel like they could flourish there, just by being them. What I won’t stand for is discrimination. Because we are statistically better as a formation the more able we are to use the diversity from within. We’re just better.”