Airman promotes messages of inclusion, unity at Pease

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Timm Huffman
  • 157th Air Refueling Wing

Airman Matthew Winders is a logistics plans specialist with the 157th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Pease Air National Guard Base, New Hampshire.

Even though he is one of the newest members of the unit, having returned from Basic Military Training and technical school in March, he hasn’t wasted any time learning his job or getting involved in the community.

After returning from training, the Rochester, New Hampshire-native, started his new career by completing 30 days of full-time, hands-on training at the base. According to his supervisor, Senior Airman Rosalee Boyden, also a wing logistics planner, the outgoing Airman is off to a great start learning how to do his job. She said he has taken ownership for his role as a support agreement manager, a responsibility that involves ensuring the correct funds are allocated to missions. 

Winders has also started volunteering to help build the diverse and inclusive culture the Air Force considers essential to success in an increasingly competitive and dynamic global environment. After connecting with the Military Equal Opportunity Office during his initial training tour, he began supporting special observance activities, which recognize, and enhance awareness for, the many cultures that comprise the 157th Air Refueling Wing, the Air Force, and Department of Defense at large.

To date, he has created materials for both Holocaust Remembrance Day and Pride Month. Airmen at the base may have seen his hand when they opened their boxed lunches during the June readiness training exercise and found slips of paper with facts about Pride Month, a month of recognition of LGBTQ+ history, and Juneteenth, sometimes called Emancipation Day.

As someone who identifies within the LQBTQ+ community, Winders said these small gestures were meant to educate and spark discussion between Airmen about diversity. He has seen first-hand the power these conversations can have on building respect and changing minds.

“Talking is how we learn and spread things and when we have these conversations, it helps get rid of the stigma and changes the culture,” he said.

But, he cautioned, because these conversations can be uncomfortable, there is a time and place to talk; the situation and environment should be appropriate for the discussion.

Senior leaders like Command Chief Master Sgt. Erica Rhea, the 157th Air Refueling Wing command chief, have set the tone and laid the groundwork for these conversations to happen. Events like the open discussion group held at the Mitsui Pavilion each drill weekend provide Airmen with a place to ask questions about diversity, culture, and also share their stories.

According to Rhea, having diversity of thought and ideas in the workforce is a critical to the wing’s success in a complex world. But the strength diversity brings can’t exist without inclusion, which is why the wing actively promotes initiatives to share stories and perspectives that help Airmen understand all cultures.

“When we embrace, celebrate and include our entire workforce in all conversations big and small, is the day we have effectively harnessed the power of diversity,” she said.

When Winders is not at Pease, he is active in local city government. He serves on the Rochester Historic District Commission, is a trustee of the city trust fund, and is a member of the Rochester Main Street board of directors.

“I really enjoy seeing the city grow, helping people, planning and making that plan into reality is amazing,” he said.

In addition to his work with this home town, he is also student at the University of New Hampshire, studying public service and non-profit management and participating in the Reserve Officer Training Corps program. When he graduates and receives his commission, he hopes to continue serving at Pease.