ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- It wasn't love at first sight for Tasha.
While on deployment to Kyrgyzstan in 2012, Staff Sgt. Tasha Coolidge, now the unit training manager with the 36th Security Forces Squadron, was focused on the mission and wanted nothing to do with the wingman who asked for help with a broken fuse in her dorm room.
Little did she know, Staff Sgt. Chelsey Coolidge, 736th SFS commando warrior instructor, her fellow Airman she hardly knew at the time, would eventually become her wife.
"At first I wasn't really that nice to Chelsey," Tasha recalled the early moments of their relationship with a laugh. "Her mom had sent her a care package with brownies and she offered me some and I said 'No, I don't want your brownies.'"
After the initial cold response, however, mutual friends convinced Tasha to accept the offer and the two began to talk more frequently.
After their deployment ended, their relationship continued and quickly developed into more through long video chats, long-distance telephone calls and trips back and forth from England to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, where Chelsey was stationed with her daughter, Akayla.
As the couple grew closer, and interest turned into love, Chelsey worried about putting her daughter into a new family situation. The worry didn't last long, however, because when Tasha and Akayla met, they instantly clicked and became best friends, Chelsey said. Even now they are thicker than thieves, telling each other jokes and occasionally ganging up on Chelsey.
"I told Tasha right off the bat that if she and Akayla didn't get along, our relationship would end," Chelsey recalled the initial unease of merging their families. “But she got along with Akayla a lot better than she got along with me when we first met!"
After a year, a few treks around the world and Akayla’s approval, Chelsey and Tasha married in Delaware and prepared for a permanent change of station to Andersen AFB, Guam.
“I’ve always been who I am today,” Tasha said. “My family knew who I was and it wasn’t a big deal.”
However, it wasn’t the same story for Chelsey. As part of a heavily faith-based family from the Midwest, she said she wasn’t sure how her family would handle her being a lesbian. However, they were happy to find Chelsey had met the love of her life.
“Marriage has definitely been good,” Chelsey said. “I have my best friend with me.”
Only a few years ago, military regulations didn’t allow same-sex couples to be together openly while serving in uniform. In the wake of the repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ policy, however, the Department of Defense provided the same spousal and family benefits to same-sex spouses. Now, it is common for Chelsey and Tasha to talk about their spouses in front of their wingmen and co-workers.
“Occasionally, people ask me where my husband works,” Chelsey said. “I know she isn’t my husband but I’m not going to correct them because I don’t want to make them feel bad.”
Meanwhile, Tasha is also in the process of legally adopting Akayla as her own daughter in order to further solidify their family bond.
"I'm really proud of Akayla and Tasha's relationship," Chelsey said. "She will tell Tasha all these secrets that she won't tell me. They are like two peas in a pod."
When they aren't working or on a TDY, the Coolidges enjoy watching Akayla play softball, going to the beach and spending time together at home with their dog, River.
“I love Tasha’s spontaneity,” Chelsey said. “She keeps our house lively. We always have so much going on but she keeps us laughing. I couldn’t imagine our lives without her.”
During Pride Month the Department of Defense celebrates members of the LGBT community whose struggles, sacrifices and successes have impacted and continue to shape the history of our nation and remind each of us to stand for tolerance, justice, and dignity.