Live music amplifies diversity message
Musicians from the band Rio Verde plays Mariachi music during the Hispanic Heritage Month luncheon held Oct. 12 at the Maxwell event center. (Air Force photo/Wendy Simonds)
Live music amplifies diversity message

by Christopher Kratzer
Air University Public Affairs

10/21/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Hispanic Heritage Month went out with a bang at Maxwell Event Center last week. The finale featured Mexican food, cultural displays, a Mariachi band and salsa lessons. The event closed out a monthlong observance of the cultural impact of Hispanic Americans, according to Carla Martin.

"Everyone that attended really enjoyed the event, especially the food, the added flare of the Mariachi band and salsa dance instruction," Martin said.

While the event was a lot of fun, Martin said it's important to retain cultural authenticity.

"It is important to me to plan an event that provides a positive learning experience for our Airmen while maintaining the integrity of the culture," Martin said. "The mission of the Air Force is to 'fly, fight, and win ... in air, space, and cyberspace.' Accepting the diversity of our personnel helps us to accomplish our goals and foster a team environment."

The base equal opportunity office works to facilitate the events with the support of wing leadership. They encourage Airmen to volunteer with planning committees, provide resources or speak at cultural heritage events.

Col. Brian Killough, 42nd Air Base Wing commander, said cultural celebrations are not only important for Airmen, but are fun as well.

"The band was great and the food was fantastic. The event was wonderful," he said. "Airmen are a reflection of the society and culture that we live in. Clearly, the United States has so much cultural history and heritage. We should celebrate that history, their heritage and the richness they bring to our culture"

Laron Washington, an equal opportunity specialist who served on the planning committee, agreed with Killough.

"We are Americans. We're a diverse country," he said. "Every ethnicity, race, religion, color, sex and national origin is important to what we do. We need to know a little bit about every culture. It's important to learn something about someone who may not look like us."

Washington said working with an event like this is important to him, and he's happy to play a small role in the cultural heritage of the United States.

"Working with events like these means the world to me," he said. "I retired from the uniform in equal opportunity, and then I came right back as a civilian. That's how much I love doing what I do. I've been stationed all over the world, and no two people are alike. I'm fighting alongside individuals that don't quite look like me, but the more I learn about them, the better we can defend America."

The staff of the equal opportunity office hopes to get even more people involved next year. They say Airmen don't know what they are missing.

"The music is the bomb," Washington said. "The Mariachi band is great. The food is really good, but having the authentic music right in front of us, not just a recording, that really means the world. I wish every Airman would take part in all of these events."