Natalie Ricketts, AFI MSOY 2024 Ramstein Air Base Winner. She is wearing a black dress with tan bats (animal) on the dress while standing at 3/4 profile.

Natalie Ricketts, headshot (Natalie Ricketts)

“The overall mission is [providing] a safe space for everybody,”

— AFI MSOY 2024 Ramstein Air Base Winner, Natalie Ricketts

Since 2008, Armed Forces Insurance (AFI) has honored military spouses all over the world and from each military branch with the Military Spouse of the Year (MSOY) award. The award recognizes military spouse contributions and help to the military community. Nominees compete at the base and branch levels for the ultimate honor, the overall Military Spouse of the Year. The overall winner this year will be selected in May 2024. This year in Germany, four military spouses won at the base level for USAG Rheinland-Pfalz, USAG Stuttgart, USAG Wiesbaden and Ramstein Air Base. I had the pleasure of talking to Ramstein Air Base Winner, Natalie Ricketts, and she told me a little about herself and her platform.

Natalie, a military spouse since 2019 and also served in the Air Force from 2010 to 2018,  founded KMC Pride when she saw there was a need for community for the LGTBQIA+ population stationed and living in the KMC area. Her platform is LGTBQ+ advocacy but she emphasizes that KMC Pride’s overall mission is being a safe space for anyone on the LGTB+ spectrum and allies.

Since its inception, KMC Pride has hosted many social and awareness events, creating an atmosphere and community of education and fun. Natalie has partnered with many on-installation organizations including MWR Library, KMC On-Stage, the Warrior Zone and the BOSS Program to provide the community with a variety of activities. Some recent events have included a weekly RuPaul’s Drag Race watch party, cleaning up Ramstein Lake for environment awareness, forming teams for trivia nights at the Armstrong Club(where they might hold a record for the number of times they have gotten second place), and sponsoring a blood drive to raise awareness for Bisexual Health Awareness Month.

KMC Pride has recently partnered with Operation Deploy Your Dress and the KLSA Thrift Store to create the “Out of the Closet” program. This program provides a “safe space for trans* (non-binary, gender non-conforming) people to try on clothes [and e]xplore a range of clothes to help express your gender identity for prom, homecoming, or any upcoming KMC Pride event.” Learn more about this program here.

Before letting her go, I asked Natalie about her favorite and least favorite military bases. She has been stationed in England, at Langley AFB and here at Ramstein. She met her spouse at Langley AFB in Virginia, so it holds a special place in her heart. Unfortunately, Ramstein is third place out of the three, but not because she dislikes it, but because the other two were just that much more awesome.

When asked about her favorite military-related perk, she gave an unexpected answer about the food court and shops at the KMCC exchange. She pointed out that “we have a lot of stuff that isn’t available anywhere else in Europe. We’ve got the Bath and Body Works [and] the Panda Express.” And, she had a great point. Living in Europe is great, but sometimes you just want that little taste of home and the BX provides that.

You can read Natalie’s full profile on the AFI MSOY website here.

You can learn more about KMC Pride here.

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Tamala Malerk is a writer and editor with Stars and Stripes Europe. She has been with SSE since April 2022 writing articles all about travel, lifestyle, community news, military life and more. In May 2022, she earned her Ph.D. in History and promises it is much more relevant to this job than one might think.

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