EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, FL - Airman were shocked last week when the Wing Commander of the 53rd Wing came out of the closet as a heterosexual to a packed auditorium during a commander’s call.
Col. Andrea Churchill was previously most notable for her distinction as the first-ever female Wing Commander of the electronic warfare-focused wing, based out of Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. However, that changed on Friday when Churchill briefed the Wing about the possibility of a Reduction in Force during Fiscal Year 2013 and began emphasizing the importance of family for maintaining resiliency during tough times.
At the end of her inspiring speech, a man and three children unexpectedly walked on stage and embraced Churchill, who she later identified as her husband and kids to audible gasps and hushed murmurs from the crowd.
“All I can say is… Wow. I totally didn’t see that coming,” one Airman told Duffel Blog reporters, still looking like he’d been punched in the gut.
Sources close to Col. Churchill say that she has always been a very private person, preferring to focus on the mission rather than go into details about her personal life while on the job. The vacuum of information left most people to assume what they thought was obvious, based on her short, practical haircut, makeup-free face, and ugly, ill-fitting civilian clothes that she frequently wore during informal morale functions.
“She mentioned her ‘spouse’ once, but, you know, we thought she was referring to her partner,” recalled Capt. Brian Nickel, the Wing Executive Officer, using air quotes when he said the word "spouse."
“She also said something a few times about her three kids, but we thought she was talking about her cats.”
Reactions to the surprising news have been mixed.
“I don’t know if I feel comfortable being around her anymore,” one male Airman, who asked to remain anonymous, admitted. “I mean, every time she looks at me, I’ll wonder if she’s undressing me with her eyes, or doing something sexual to me in her mind.”
Another female Airman shared a markedly different take on the situation.
“I think it took a lot of guts to come out like she did,” Lt. Amber Haley said. “Being a straight Air Force Academy grad, I had resigned myself to giggling and flirting my way up the ranks, maybe giving my supervisors a few TDY handjobs to ensure that my performance reports were good enough to reach at least major, before being forced to retire for lacking critical leadership qualities that only come from having a penis. But Col. Churchill has blazed a new trail for all of us heterosexual military women out there by saying, ‘you don’t have to carpet-munch your way to the top.’”