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Close of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month

The official theme for this year’s Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month was “Striving for Excellence in Leadership, Diversity, and Inclusion.” Tenant organizations from across the installation currently have personnel representing the US Armed Forces in the Far East, Southwest Asia, and the Pacific.

Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month honors people whose ancestry originates from the entire Asian continent, the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. Asian-Pacific American Heritage month takes place each May to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese people to the United States in May of 1843 and to mark the completion of the transcontinental railroad in May of 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.

Soldiers, civilians, and contractors of Asian Pacific heritage have valiantly served their country in numerous combat and peacetime operations, from the Civil War through current overseas contingency operations. The US Army’s most decorated unit, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, was an all-Nisei volunteer regiment made up of first generation Japanese-Americans born in the United States. This heroic group served in Europe while many of their family members were held in internment camps back in the United States.

Just last month, United States Soldier and Korean Augmentation To the United States Army, or KATUSA, soldiers participated in 2012 KATUSA U.S. Soldier Friendship. Hosted by the Republic of Korea Army Support Group and held at Yongsan Garrison, South Korea, sporting events and cultural exchange enhanced the relationship between the US and our South Korean allies. The activities in Korea are indicative of the commitment the Army has in the Far East.

Not limited to camaraderie building, the U.S. Army also recently conducted joint exercises with the U.S. Coast Guard. U.S. Army Pacific, Contingency Command Post Humanitarian Assistance Survey Team (HAST) held a load exercise with the U.S. Coast Guard recently at Barbers Point Naval Air Station, Hawaii. The HAST group is a rapidly deployable team comprised of 6-14 Soldiers, with specific skill sets, who can be on the ground anywhere in the Pacific within 24 hours to determine how the U.S. military can best provide relief support. Their training involved the U.S. Coast Guard loading a U.S. Army Pacific power generator unit onto a C-130 as well as driving a HWMMV onto a the same aircraft. Coast Guard instructors familiarized Soldiers with aircraft tie-down components and procedures.

The need to be rapidly deployable within hours to the Asia Pacific region was exemplified after the Great East Japan Earthquake in Northern Japan in March of last year. An earthquake off the coast of the Tohoku region, followed by a tsunami, and subsequent damage to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant spurred Operation Tomodachi into action.

Operation Tomodachi, named for the Japanese word for “friend,” was months-long joint support mission involving more than 100,000 Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force members and 24,000 service members from each branch of the U.S. military. The mutli-faceted operation included search-and-rescue efforts, construction initiatives, medical assistance, food and water delivery, and various goodwill events.

Here on the installation, Aberdeen Proving Ground celebrated Asian-Pacific American Heritage through a series of films and a heritage observance. Weekly movie screenings depicted educational pieces and documentaries to highlight Asian Pacific culture. The post-wide Asian Pacific American Heritage Observance, was held on May 23rd at the APG North Recreation Center. It featured a keynote speaker, cultural dance performances, and exhibits. The guest speaker was Mr. Terry Shima, the Executive Director of the Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA), and veteran of the famous 10th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

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