Dignity, respect anchor opportunity, right to serve

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --

This month, as we prepared to celebrate our nation’s independence and to contemplate all that we hold dear as Americans, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter made the announcement that the Department of Defense was opening military service to transgender Americans.

The announcement detailed an implementation of the new access in stages across the next 12 months. In anticipation, it’s important that we take a moment to remind ourselves of those values we hold dear.

I have discussed the value of diversity repeatedly with Team Kirtland and in our local community. The right to serve and equal access are the sum of our core values not only as Airmen, but as Americans.

The changing composition of our Air Force since its inception has been the product of our journey to achieve fairness and provide opportunities for Americans not only to serve, but also to excel based on their performance.

So far this year, we have celebrated the cultural heritage and contribution to our nation’s defense of women, African-Americans, Asian/Pacific Islander-Americans and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, and given somber consideration to the Holocaust.

Several more such celebrations will take place, including Hispanic and Native American heritage, before the year is done. In each instance, we have had a chance to examine what each of us from our diverse backgrounds can bring to the table — can bring to the fight — when given the genuine opportunity.

These celebrations, and the expanding rights and access we’ve seen for LGBT Americans in recent years, are opportunities that remind us how crucial equal treatment is to real opportunity. We need to treat our fellow Airmen — including every member and family member of Team Kirtland — with dignity, with respect and with the crucial degree of fairness to enable our collective success.

We don’t need a regulation or instruction or policy letter to tell us how to treat one another. Treating people differently based on their gender identity, rather than on their ability to serve, falls far short of our values.

Integrity, service and excellence guide us in how we serve. As Secretary Carter said in summing up our philosophy, the values of trust and honor are integral to the profession of arms.

These values must guide us in how we treat one another.