NEWS | Feb. 27, 2011

Joint Task Force-Bravo celebrates diversity with Black History Month

By Captain John T. Stamm Joint Task Force Bravo Public Affairs

The United States celebrates Black History Month every February, and each year the military honors and recognizes the contributions of African-American men and women to our Nation's security.

This year, Joint Task Force-Bravo members chose to highlight the military heritage of those who broke the color barrier and served with distinction during the American Civil War.

"We are honoring the legacy of African-Americans in, and towards, the Civil War," said Tech. Sgt. Lineus Davis, 612th Air Base Squadron civil engineer. "Their efforts were vital in the abolishment of slavery and shaping the face of modern America."

A series of movies, "Who am I?" essays and trivia contests highlighted such individuals as Susie King Taylor, a former slave who served as a nurse in the Union Army; Robert Smalls, who was forced to serve in the Confederate Navy where he commandeered a transport ship and delivered it to Union forces; Frederick Douglas, an escaped slave who became a writer, speaker and a leader in the abolition movement; and William Carney, who received the Medal of Honor for heroism at the Battle of Fort Wagner.

For Technical Sergeant Davis, it's not only important to study black history, but also the history and contributions all ethnic groups have made in forging and shaping the country.

"America attracts people from all races," he said. "That says a lot about what America represents."

Tech. Sgt. Clarissa Holmes, 612th ABS postal specialist, became involved in orchestrating Black History Month celebrations when she first entered the Air Force 12 years ago and co-chaired the planning committee with Davis. She believes all history month celebrations foster understanding and growth.

"We all need to know our background," Technical Sergeant Holmes said. "Whether it is black history or Hispanic history or any other... It's American history, and we should all be involved."

Black History Month at Soto Cano Air Base culminated in a dinner celebration, beginning with Sgt. Errika Thomas, Army Forces personnel specialist, singing the National Anthem. Other events included musical selections, poetry readings and tributes to the honorees.

JTF-Bravo commander Col. Greg Reilly spoke to attendees, thanking service members for their continuous contributions and encouraging future diligence.

"History doesn't stop," Colonel Reilly said. "The power lies in knowing where we are and looking forward."

The festivities concluded with Sergeant Thomas leading the singing of "Lift every voice and sing."

At Joint Task Force-Bravo, an unwavering commitment to the highest levels of professionalism will always be the foundation of what we do, and more importantly, who we are.