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    Iowa Soldier steps up as special emphasis program manager, LGBT ally

    Iowa Soldier steps up as special emphasis program manager, LGBT ally

    Photo By Sgt. Tawny Schmit | 1st Lt. Kevin Waldron, a new Special Emphasis Program Manager (SEPM) for the Iowa Army...... read more read more

    JOHNSTON, IA, UNITED STATES

    06.26.2020

    Story by Sgt. Tawny Schmit 

    Joint Forces Headquarters, Iowa National Guard

    Over a decade ago, 1st Lt. Kevin Waldron and a group of his friends were preparing to protest at the Cerro Gordo County Courthouse in anticipation of the Iowa Supreme Court decision on whether or not to legally recognize same sex marriages. Waldron, then a college student at North Iowa Area Community College in Mason City, was expecting the motion to be struck down -- but on April 3, 2009, Iowa became the third state in the U.S. to legalize same sex marriage.

    “We were expecting the Supreme Court to deny the right for same sex couples to marry,” Waldron said, “but instead, it was a moment I will never forget. I got to go to the courthouse with signs that said, ‘Thank You Supreme Court’ and ‘Love is Love.’ It was a very proud moment for not only that community, but for me as a supportive ally.”

    Waldron is a maintenance control officer with the 3655th Classification and Inspection Company, 1034th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, Iowa Army National Guard. He also works full time for the Iowa National Guard public affairs office. Since that day of celebration, Waldron has continued to be an ally to the LGBT community both in the Guard and as a member of his community.

    When he transitioned as a student to Grandview University in Des Moines, he helped establish a gay-straight alliance with the guidance of senior board leaders who wished to diversify the university. He also marched in Iowa’s Pride Parade in 2011.

    Now, Waldron is taking on a new role: Special Emphasis Program Manager (SEPM) for the Iowa National Guard.

    “An individual approached me and asked if I’d be willing to step up and help individuals in the Iowa National Guard who may need some leadership or guidance,” Waldron said. “I said, ‘yes, I would be happy to.’”

    To become a SEPM, Waldron received letters of appointment through his manager and the Iowa Equal Opportunity and Inclusion office and attended training for the position. His mission is to assist underrepresented groups within the organization and offer them assistance in matters of equal opportunity.

    Waldron said even after the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was abolished in 2011, there is still a stigma that the LGBT community isn’t welcome in the National Guard.

    “I want to let them know they are welcome,” Waldron said, “and leadership has expressed their support for this community.”

    As he moves into his new position, Waldron said Soldiers and Airmen alike will be seeing more of him and encourages anyone to approach him with questions or concerns. He also hopes to attend more diversity events to better understand how he can help the organization.

    While Waldron said most of his interactions with LGBT members in the Iowa National Guard have been positive -- many of which end in professional development on both sides -- there are conversations that have taken place that remind him there is still work to do.

    “I explained that social change will take time,” Waldron said. “We’re a community of one. We’re an organization that is meant to fight our nation’s wars, and if we’re not all on the same page, how can we fight together?”

    Waldron said implementing small changes over time and having difficult conversations will motivate him as a SEPM and make the job rewarding.

    In the meantime, Waldron will continue to be an ally in his community. For five years, he has been a member of a travelling softball team with the Pride Sports League of Central Iowa, which provides recreational and networking opportunities for the LGBT community in Central Iowa.

    His inclusive co-ed softball team has won the Minneapolis North Star Tournament twice in the past three years and has travelled all across the U.S.

    “If you’re straight or gay, it doesn’t matter,” Waldron said, “the point of the organization is to bring the community together through the means of sports.”

    With family and many friends who identify as LGBT and a long track record of standing up for equal rights, Waldron is sure to bring passion to his role as SEPM as he works to break down the stigma and remind the Soldiers and Airmen of the Iowa National Guard that they are one.

    “We hear you and we are there for you,” Waldron said. “I can get you the assistance you need, help you to be happy in your career and be happy to work for the Iowa National Guard.”

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 06.26.2020
    Date Posted: 06.26.2020 12:16
    Story ID: 372900
    Location: JOHNSTON, IA, US 
    Hometown: VENTURA, IA, US
    Hometown: WEST DES MOINES, IA, US

    Web Views: 447
    Downloads: 0
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