Travis Airmen observe AAPI Heritage Month with fly-in and community outreach

  • Published
  • By Lan Kim
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

SEATTLE, Wash. – In recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a predominantly AAPI aircrew from Travis Air Force Base, California, flew a heritage mission May 14-16 to King County International Airport-Boeing Field, Seattle, Washington.

The aircrew partnered with a local fixed-based operator — an organization stationed at an airport to provide fueling, parking and other aviation logistical support — at Boeing Field to host a fly-in event May 15 for Seattle locals to tour a KC-10 Extender and interact with Airmen.

A sense of pride was prevalent among the crew as they interacted with community members because it’s rare to see a team of aviators that look like them and representation is important.

“When this heritage flight came to fruition, I thought back on the seven years that I’ve been in the Air Force … this is the first time this kind of opportunity came to me, and that honestly shocked me,” said Staff Sgt. Calvin Kim, 6th Air Refueling Squadron instructor boom operator.

“I couldn’t remember the last time that an AAPI crew was put together to fly a mission,” Kim said. “It made me feel like we need to do this more often to show that everyone comes from different backgrounds (and) ethnicities, and that is what makes us stronger and better as a team.”

Other crew members shared that same sentiment and a common understanding that representation in the Air Force matters when it comes to diversity and inclusion. 

“Exposure is the first step,” said Capt. Stephen Lin, 9th Air Refueling Squadron KC-10 instructor pilot. “I don’t think I’ve seen any Asian pilots prior to becoming a pilot.”

Events like this fly-in are the kind of exposure to the AAPI community that may inspire other members of the community to see themselves in the Air Force, Lin said.

“Thinking back to my ROTC days, talking to a pilot was awesome,” he said.

For one U.S. Army soldier in attendance, the opportunity to see the KC-10 up close and to interact with the aircrew one-on-one was a meaningful experience.

“I have a dream to become a pilot,” said Wongi Lee, a Washington-native stationed at nearby Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Lee said it was important to speak to the Airmen about what their day-to-day life is like in the Air Force and what resources are available to help him fulfill his pilot aspirations.

“Providing this kind of opportunity gives a lot of hope to future generations,” Lee said.