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552nd ACW celebrates Hispanic Heritage month

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --

To honor Hispanic Heritage Month, an all Hispanic aircrew with the 552nd Air Control Wing flew a heritage mission and training sortie over New Mexico Oct. 12.

This marked the first time Tinker’s flying wings have ever had an all Hispanic crew, comprised of Airmen across all of the wing's flying squadrons.

The sortie had 30 members from three groups to include maintenance and six different squadrons, providing them with multiple training events for the duration of the flight.

“Diversity brings strengthens us as the world’s most dominant Air Force, to create air power competition for our enemies that helps us maintain leverage against them,” said Col. Keven Coyle, 552nd ACW commander. “These events are important to all underrepresented persons of any color, they are important to our wing, and they are important to our DOD.”

Maj. Christopher Washington with the 965th Airborne Air Control Squadron said for him this flight is about paying tribute to his mother who came to the U.S. from a third world country, not knowing what to expect. She did her best and raised four children, all of whom currently serve in the military.

“We are proud of our heritage and we want the younger generation to know that Hispanics are accomplishing more than they might have thought possible,” said Washington. “There are so many opportunities. We just want to remember where we came from and not forget that while we move forward to a brighter future.”

Staff Sgt. Rocio Freeman with the 965th AACS is the first female in her family to serve in the military. Her grandfather served in Vietnam in one of the first groups of Puerto Ricans and her father served in the National Guard.

“As an Air Force we are trying to include a more diverse group of people and this shows that we’ve progressed and all backgrounds have capabilities of doing great things,” said Freeman. “It is important for other Hispanic people to see us accomplishing our dreams and know they can do it also.”

According to Defense Manpower Data, Latinos or Hispanics make up 17.6% of the active duty force with a total number of 235,972 as of July 2021.

Highlighting the achievements of past and present service members is an important part of Air Force culture because it promotes inclusivity throughout the wing and honors a rich legacy.