Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) showcased its commitment to equality and inclusion by hosting an LGBTQ+ National Event at the Fleet Readiness Center East (FRC-E) on Thursday, June 22. The event, organized by the FRC-E Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer + Allies (LGBTQ+A) Diversity Action team, featured guest speaker Cmdr. Blake Dremann addressed the theme “Equality without Exception: Pride in all who serve.” The event aimed to promote dialogue and understanding, fostering an environment of respect within NAVAIR.
Vice Adm. Carl Chebi, in his opening remarks, emphasized the importance of inclusion and respect for all personnel within NAVAIR. With a workforce of 44,000 individuals, Chebi underscored the need to engage everyone and value their contributions. “We treat each other with dignity and respect each and every day. We grow and learn by being exposed to different perspectives and different experiences,” he said.
Capt. J.M. Belmont, commander of FRCE, extended a warm welcome to Cmdr. Blake Dremann, acknowledging his significant role in the LGBTQ+ community. Dremann, an active-duty Navy lieutenant commander serving as the supply officer and Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul – Logistics deputy director at FRC-E, has been a vocal advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and equality.
Dremann’s speech focused on the significance of personal identity and its influence on an individual’s life. “Identities are important to people; they are something that is core to our life,” he said. He emphasized that regardless of gender or sexual orientation, every sailor should be treated as an individual, promoting equal treatment for all. Dremann shared his journey as a transgender Navy commander and expressed his pride in serving his country and wearing the uniform. He highlighted the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community, including harassment, discrimination, and employment difficulties.
According to Dremann, over half of the LGBTQ+ population experiences various forms of mistreatment in the workplace, such as discrimination, harassment, or even termination. He revealed that less than half of LGBTQ+ service members feel comfortable being open about their identity with their commanders due to fear of retaliation or discrimination. Dremann stressed that creating an environment where individuals can be authentic leads to increased job satisfaction and better overall performance.
Expressing gratitude to the FRC-E community for their acceptance and support, Dremann commended their inclusive approach. He encouraged attendees to actively address any discrimination or inappropriate behavior they witness actively, emphasizing the importance of immediate action. Dremann also urged individuals who feel uncomfortable in the presence of LGBTQ+ people to engage in self-reflection and introspection to overcome their biases.
In his closing remarks, Dremann attributed his success to the support of allies and his own determination to bridge the gap between acceptance and tolerance. He recognized the pivotal role of allies in ensuring that he was treated as a fully capable individual.
The NAVAIR LGBTQ+ National Event at FRC-E was a platform for open dialogue, fostering understanding, and promoting equality within the command. By embracing diversity and creating an inclusive environment, NAVAIR aims to harness the full potential of its workforce and cultivate a culture of respect and acceptance. Through events like these, the command sends a strong message of support to its LGBTQ+ personnel, demonstrating its commitment to their well-being and professional growth.