FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 9, 2021
Release #2142 Point of Contact—Jeffrey Prater (401) 832-2039
NUWC Division Newport concludes Pride Month celebration with guest speaker Lt. Cmdr. Blake Dremann
Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport punctuated its Pride Month celebration on June 29 by welcoming guest speaker Lt. Cmdr. Blake Dremann for a talk that also was broadcast across Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA). More than 400 employees across 10 warfare centers tuned in for the event.
“We are culminating this month’s celebration and it truly has been a celebration,” Division Newport Commanding Officer Capt. Chad Hennings said. “However, this is something we need to live every day and keep moving forward.”
Division Newport and its Equal Employment Opportunity Office paid tribute to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in June in a number of ways, including a poster display in the lobby of a main building, feature articles and a series of podcasts that are posted here: https://www.navy.mil/Resources/Podcasts/mod/2553/details/479/
“Pride Month reminds us we have come a long way and there’s a lot to celebrate, but there’s a lot more work to do in the name of equality,” said Vima Manfredo, Division Newport’s LGBT special emphasis program manager (SEPM) and organizational chair for the LGBT + Allies Employee Organization. “We use this month to commemorate the effect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have had on our lives both nationally and internationally.”
Dremann, who currently is assigned as the ordnance audit program manager at Navy Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Ammunition Logistics Center at NAVSUP Headquarters in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, discussed his experience as an LGBT Sailor, including why he serves, speaks publicly and celebrates.
“I serve because I love my country,” Dremann said. “It’s also a calling. You can’t do this job for 15 years and not feel like you’re doing something bigger than yourself. And I wanted to take the next step by earning my commission; I just happen to be transgender.”
Dremann added he serves because he is capable and good at his job — he has received many commendations — but also because changes cannot be made to military policy on transgender service from the outside.
Beginning in 1960, transgender people were banned from enlisting or serving in the U.S. military. This policy was in place until June 30, 2016, when the Barack Obama administration instituted a new policy allowing transgender individuals to serve in their identified or assigned gender after transitioning.
This policy was repealed by the Donald Trump administration on Jan. 1, 2018 and a ban went into effect on April 12, 2019 after the last of the court injunctions filed against the new policy were removed. Stringent restrictions remained in place until the Joe Biden administration took office. On Jan. 26, 2021, all restrictions on military service by transgender individuals were lifted and transgender transitional care was deemed medically necessary.
Dremann recognized that during his career, he and others violated the policy put in place by previous administrations, yet it was necessary in order to do what he felt was right.
“A little civil disobedience never hurt anybody to help people see past their own biases,” Dremann said. “Sometimes you have to take calculated risks in order to create change.”
This, Dremann said, is part of the reason why he speaks publicly. He noted that sometimes it’s not enough to simply let your work speak for itself.
“With great power comes great responsibility. I’m white, I’m male, I’m an officer and I’m perceived straight or Christian,” Dremann said. “All of these remove barriers and put me in position to speak where others are not. It puts me in rooms where I’m able to speak to senior leaders.
“It becomes my responsibility to lift up those voices to expose bad leadership and implement policy.”
Dremann also said you have to have “skin in the game” because it’s not always enough to be right.
“There are a lot of things in this world that we should just fix,” Dremann said. “You have to convince other people that it’s right.”
Once you convince people in power that it’s right, Dremann said, you have to convince them to take action as well. This action, which becomes policy, cannot just be left alone either, as it needs to be evaluated and re-evaluated.
Dremann added that he speaks because senior leaders need a judgement-free space to ask questions.
“I won’t say that when you say the word transgender their IQs drop 50 points, but they do in some cases,” Dremann said. “Some questions are appropriate, others are not, but they need to ask them.
“I always say when I talk to senior leaders, ‘Sir, feel free to ask your questions, whatever questions they may be. We’re here to help you understand why this is OK.’ Leaders need to ask their questions, move past their bias or uncomfortableness, and have them answered by a competent authority.”
This also connects with why Dremann celebrates being transgender.
“We’ve come so far over the past 10 years where LGBT people can be out and proud in public,” Dremann said. “It’s about being themselves and not having dual lives because they’re afraid people aren’t going to be able to change how they view them.”
He is quick to note, however, there is still much work to be done. This includes promoting an environment of not just diversity, but also inclusion.
“Foster an environment of authenticity,” Dremann said. “If I have a Sailor or civilian who is struggling, but doesn’t feel comfortable enough to tell you, then you have half a Sailor.
“It’s not just your job, it’s your life. If you don’t have all your Sailors showing up every day with all of them, then you are putting the mission at risk.”
Lt. Cmdr. Blake Dremann is a native of St. Louis, Missouri, and a 2003 graduate of Ozark Christian College. He earned a bachelor's degree in biblical literature and received his commission through Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, Florida, in 2006. He then attended Navy Supply Corps School in Athens, Georgia, and earned his Master of Business Administration from Norwich University in 2019.
Dremann's operational assignments include: division officer afloat as food service officer, disbursing officer and assistant supply officer, USS Denver (LPD 9); and supply officer, USS Maine (SSBN 741), earning the Maine's second Logistics Excellence Award and was recipient of the 2015 Vice Admiral Robert F. Batchelder Award.
His most recent shore assignment was as readiness officer, Nuclear Enterprise Support Office at Defense Logistics Agency in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Previously he was a Navy intern, Joint Staff, Logistics Directorate, Washington, D.C., where he became the deputy branch chief for capabilities, was co-lead for the biennial logistics war game and Combatant Command Integrated Priority Lists and Issue Nominations. He served an individual augmentation tour as assistant coordinator, Commander's Emergency Response Program; Combined Joint Task Force — 101, Bagram, Afghanistan; and division officer ashore as food service officer, billeting officer, and sales officer for Navy Support Facility, Diego Garcia.
Dremann's personal decorations include two Defense Meritorious Service Medals, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and four Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals. He is qualified as a submarine warfare supply officer and surface warfare supply officer. He has received the 2018 Department of Defense Pride Military Leadership Award, was a Modern Military Association of America's "Outstanding Advocate" Honoree for their 25th anniversary, and was named a 2019 Out in National Security Next Generation Leader in National Security.
NUWC Division Newport is a shore command of the U.S. Navy within the Naval Sea Systems Command, which engineers, builds and supports America’s fleet of ships and combat systems. NUWC Newport provides research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support for submarines, autonomous underwater systems, undersea offensive and defensive weapons systems, and countermeasures associated with undersea warfare.
NUWC Newport is the oldest warfare center in the country, tracing its heritage to the Naval Torpedo Station established on Goat Island in Newport Harbor in 1869. Commanded by Capt. Chad Hennings, NUWC Newport maintains major detachments in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Andros Island in the Bahamas, as well as test facilities at Seneca Lake and Fisher's Island, New York, Leesburg, Florida, and Dodge Pond, Connecticut.
Vima Manfredo (left), Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport’s LGBT special emphasis program manager and Division Newport Commanding Officer Capt. Chad Hennings (right) present Lt. Cmdr. Blake Dremann (center) with a signed Pride Month poster in honor of his visit as guest speaker for a Pride Month celebration held on June 29, 2021. Dremann, who currently is assigned as the ordnance audit program manager at Navy Supply Systems Command Headquarters in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, discussed his experience as an LGBT Sailor, including why he serves and speaks publicly. (U.S. Navy photo by Dave Stoehr)