AF Asian-Pacific Islander pioneer: Ellison Onizuka

By MASTER SGT. RICHARD JONES
Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage committee chair
May 11, 2017

“With courage, grit, and an abiding belief in American ideals, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders have challenged our Nation to be better.” — President Barack Obama

This month, Hill Air Force Base, along with the rest of America, celebrates the heritage, achievements and culture of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. 

Asian-Pacific American Heritage Week was established in 1978. In 1992, Congress officially designated May of each year as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Perhaps the most well-known Air Force member of Asian-Pacific Islander ancestry is Ellison Onizuka. Born in 1946 in Hawaii, he entered the Air Force in January 1970 and flew a variety of aircraft, eventually logging more than 1,700 flying hours. In January 1978, he became an astronaut candidate for NASA.

Onizuka flew his first space shuttle mission aboard Space Shuttle Discovery in January 1985. He was a mission specialist aboard Challenger when it exploded a little over one minute after launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Jan. 28, 1986. Congress posthumously promoted him to colonel and the Air Force renamed Sunnyvale Air Force Station, California, after Onizuka on Jan. 26, 1994. The Air Force officially closed the installation in September 2011.

As we commemorate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we pay tribute to all the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have made a brighter future for the next generation. 

Together, let us recommit to embracing the diversity that enriches our nation and to ensuring all our people have an equal chance to succeed in the country we love.

This year, Team Hill will recognize Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month by hosting a festival Friday, May 19, from 4-7 p.m., at the Hill Air Force Base softball fields next to the Warrior Fitness Center. The theme for 2017 is “Unite Our Voices by Speaking Together,” with special keynote speaker Roland Alforque, who grew up on the island of Guam and enlisted in the Army on June, 4, 1980. Currently, Alforque works as a civilian police officer/patrolman assigned to the 75th Security Forces Squadron. 

Come and join us for cultural awareness, information booths, entertainment and food. It is FREE to attend the event and food tickets will be sold in advance and the day of the event.

For more information, please contact Master Sgt. Richard Jones at richard.jones.46@us.af.mil or 801-777-4114; Airman 1st Class Marcus Guzman at marcus.guzman.1@us.af.mil or 801-586-9543; or Irene Jones at irene.jones.1@us.af.mil or 801-777-9035.