AAPI Heritage Month Closes with Cultural Events

  • Published
  • By Kimberly J. Locke, SBD-3 Public Affairs

Cultural performances, martial arts demonstrations, a fashion show featuring heritage attire from various regions of Asia, and cultural foods all helped to close out the observance of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month June 6 on Los Angeles Air Force Base (LAAFB).

The program began with welcome remarks by 2nd Lt. Esther Kim, who served as program narrator. Kim shared her thoughts on the observance theme, “Advancing Leaders Through Opportunity,” and the significant role leadership has in shaping the U.S. military and society and the need to empower AAPI service members to lead and have a positive impact on the world.

1st Lt. Rachel Jung, action officer for the AAPI Heritage Month events, then introduced the guest speaker for the lunchtime program, Lt. Col. Tan Ngo, materiel leader and branch chief of the Combat Systems Branch, Warfighting Enterprise Division, Space Systems Command.

Ngo also spoke to the theme, sharing his personal experiences of how he immigrated from Hội An, Vietnam, to the U.S. as a young child with his family as refugees of the Vietnam War.  He and his family were political refugees because his father had served as a lieutenant in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) and aided U.S. forces as a supplies officer and translator.

Ngo, his parents, and siblings escaped from their homeland with very few possessions after bribing Hội An port police and travelling for six days on the South China Sea in a small fishing boat to Hong Kong.  Their pursuit of freedom took them from Vietnam to Hong Kong, the Philippines, and New York before finally settling in West Covina, California. “The United States,” he said, “is the land of opportunity.”

Ngo attributes much of his perseverance and success to his hard-working parents who inspired him to pursue his education. He earned a bachelor of science in electrical engineering from Cal Poly Pomona and then commissioned through Officer Training School as a 2nd lieutenant.

“The Air Force needed more electrical engineers,” he recalls, which served as a catalyst for him to pursue his master of science in electrical engineering from California State University, Long Beach. He went on to earn his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

In addition to his parents and his wife, Claire Nguyen, Ngo said he had some strong supporters and excellent mentors along his academic and military career paths. “No one,” he said, “becomes something on their own.” Ngo mentioned the mentors and leaders along his professional and personal journey who recognized his potential and provided him with “countless opportunities.” He also acknowledged various organizations, such as Doctors without Borders/MSF and the Philippines Refugee Processing Center, for their support throughout his family’s journey to the U.S.

Ngo added that he will continue to seek every opportunity to encourage and promote education, seek out those with the potential for greatness, and do what he can to maximize those opportunities. Ngo encouraged others to do the same.

Find additional photos of the heritage event on our SBD 3 Flickr: https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjAGY8R