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Air Force Birthday and National Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration, Shaw Air Force Base, SC

  • Published
  • By Lt Col Noemi Antedomenico
  • Ninth Air Force (Air Forces Central)

Members of Ninth Air Force (Air Forces Central) celebrated the Air Force’s Birthday and National Hispanic Heritage Month on Sept. 23 at the Carolina Skies Club at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.  

Lt. Gen. Alex Grynkewich, 9 AF (AFCENT) commander, started a monthly morale event five months ago called Spartan Friday for the 1,400 personnel in 9 AF (AFCENT) headquarters. Spartan Friday is an opportunity for personnel to gather together, outside of work, and bolster comradery; this reoccurring event cultivates a spirit of inclusion and belonging, directly promulgating the Combined Force Air Component Commander’s priority to “Value Everyone, and their Contributions.” 

This month, Spartan Friday was hosted by 9 AF (AFCENT)’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion program and the Equality Working Group. In celebration of the Air Force’s 76th birthday, Airman First Class Sophie Espinosa, military pay technician, and Mr. Thomas Carver, command assignments, worked together to slice the cake.

Members of the command also celebrated National Hispanic Heritage Month, commemorated Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, one of the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute’s 11 Cultural Observance and Awareness events, as directed by the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, and as established by law, bill or resolution of Congress. 

Capt. Josette “Josey” Breeden, 9 AF (AFCENT) personnel operations officer and EWG member, led the EWG planning committee to host the event, which resulted in more than 140 attendees coming out to celebrate.

Breeden shared, “Hispanic Heritage month is a 30 day celebration to recognize members and their families with Hispanic ties. Twenty percent of the US population shares Hispanic ancestry, so what better way to bring our community together than with recognition of over 21 countries and territories for a fun and informative celebration of heritage and culture…”Todos Somos, Todos Uno,” meaning, We are all, We are all one!“

During the celebration, Capt. Jasmine Archuleta, 9 AF (AFCENT)/A35 Future Operations Lessons Learned, and Carrissa “CJ” Justiniano, Air Force veteran, and former senior enlisted leader for 20th Healthcare Operations Squadron, taught the group basic salsa and bachata dance styles. Archuleta stated, “Hispanic dancing celebrates the culture and brings people together in a connection to music and traditions.” The EWG also led attendees in Loteria Games. 

The five 9 AF (AFCENT) Air Expeditionary Wings and five Direct Reporting Units have DEI managers who lead their commander’s DEI programs. Each celebrate the cultural observances downrange in unique ways to bolster the morale and inclusivity of 9 AF (AFCENT) Airmen. Since the stand up in March, 2023 of the headquarters 9 AF (AFCENT) DEI program, wing DEI Managers and their councils hosted more than 70 DEOMI cultural awareness events. These life-saving events promote a spirit of inclusion for our 27,000 deployed Airmen in the Middle East. 

Five hundred military and civilian members attended a National Hispanic Heritage event hosted by the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing and the 387th Air Expeditionary Group DEI Councils at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait. Tech. Sgt.  Rodrick Chandler and Staff Sgt. Christian Cardwell were at the helm of this event and serve at the wing’s DEI managers.

Lt. Col.  Noemi Antedomenico, 9 AF (AFCENT) DEI lead, stated, “People are our strategic advantage. By including all, we leverage our diverse talents, and create a lethal advantage for our Nation’s air operations.”