Green Mountain Pride
By TSgt Richard Mekkri, 158th Fighter Wing
/ Published June 30, 2021
Vermont Air National Guard --
Fuel is in Tech. Sgt. Ashley Whitty’s blood. As a child, she spent days in the small engine shop built by her grandfather, which is now owned by her father. She would spend time dusting engine parts on showroom shelves and sweeping the floors, paying attention to detail, ensuring everything looked just right for the customers.
However, it was in the back of the showroom where she first began working with her hands. It was there Whitty learned the intricacies of small engine repair, getting her hands dirty on chain saws, lawn mowers, weed wackers, and snowmobiles. Again, attention to detail was paramount.
Those early life experiences, paired with a tour of the Vermont Air National Guard Base in Burlington, Vermont, propelled Whitty into her current career as a fuel systems repair specialist with the 158th Fighter Wing.
“Once I took a tour of fuel shop, I fell in love with the idea of working with my hands,” Whitty said. “I could utilize the skills I obtained while working with my father as a kid and apply them to a career with the Air Force. It felt like a no-brainer and it was a very easy decision to want to join the VTANG from there.”
It was shortly after that first tour of the base, in January 2010, that Whitty was about to sign her enlistment paperwork. There was one issue. Whitty had recently come out as a lesbian. At that time, in accordance with the Department of Defense Directive 1332.14, it was legal policy that homosexuality was incompatible with military service and that persons who stated that they were homosexual or bisexual were to be discharged from military duty.
“A sense of fear came over me,” Whitty said, “I did not quite understand what it might mean if somehow the military found out I was a lesbian. Could I get kicked out? I was close with some of my co-workers where I was comfortable sharing with them my sexual orientation but others, I kept it a secret out of fear they might not accept me.”
She didn’t have to worry long. Four months later, in May 2010, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was repealed by President Barack Obama. Whitty was now allowed to live as her authentic self while also fulfilling her desire to serve her country.
In August 2013, during a military “Family Day” celebration, Whitty brought her then-girlfriend, Megan Boumil, to the base and introduced her to co-workers.
“I was surprised by how accepting they all were,” said Whitty. “I felt proud to take this step and finally be who I really was in a shop that I love.”
It was a few years later, with encouragement from Whitty, that her now-wife, Senior Airman Megan Boumil-Whitty, joined the Vermont Air National Guard. Boumil-Whitty enlisted as an all-source intel analyst with the 158th Operations Support Squadron.
Boumil-Whitty says that the couple enjoys the same privileges and rights as any other married couple in the military, regardless of their sexual orientation.
“Times are different than they used to be,” said Boumil-Whitty. “More and more people are becoming accepting of it.”
Whereas Boumil-Whitty used to be the one waiting for her wife to come home from a deployment, they now get to share stories with each other of their own respective deployments.
“Serving with Megan is exciting,” said Whitty. “We get to see different parts of the world together while contributing to something bigger than ourselves. I work in maintenance and Megan works in operations so it is fun sharing our experiences from these two different sides.”
If there’s one thing Whitty can hope to pass on to future generations of LGBTQ+ members considering serving in the military, it would for them to simply be themselves. She said that she has been fortunate enough to have had a positive experience coming out to friends and family while also serving openly in the military, although she recognizes her experience may not be the same for everyone.
“A majority of military members will accept you regardless of your sexual orientation and then there are some who may not,” said Whitty. “I guarantee you have run into people outside of the military who accept you as person because of your sexual orientation and you have also run into people that don’t. The military is no different.”
Whitty stated that being a part of the Green Mountain Boys is like being part of a big family, and that she does not need to question or fear of any backlash from the military because of her sexual orientation.
“The Air Force is continuously working toward creating a safe environment, free of harassment based on your sexual orientation. I am thankful that I can be fully myself and also be a part of something far greater than myself.”