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African American Luncheon nearing its third decade of festivities

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Ivyann Castillo
  • 171st Public Affairs
     Though the temperatures were blistering cold and another Western Pennsylvania snow storm was brewing, it didn't stop the annual 171st Air Refueling Wing's African American Heritage Luncheon event that occurred Feb. 26, at the Pittsburgh Airport Marriott Hotel. 
     In its 27th year, the event was to recognize the history of African American heritage focusing on this year's Economic Empowerment theme.  The event started with a combined honor guard consisting of the 171st ARW members, West Mifflin and Beaver High School JROTC posting the colors.
     Brig. Gen. Roy E. Uptegraff, commander, 171st ARW welcomed the audience for attending the luncheon and showing their support even during a snowstorm.  He also thanked the committee members who organized the event.
     Uptegraff discussed the Wing's missions highlighting our overseas, national and domestic operations.  He mentioned this luncheon became a "wing tradition every year just shy of going into its third decade."
     Uptegraff went on to specify, "how diversity is a key component of our unit's success, the more we understand and utilize diversity, the more we will succeed in our missions."
     Acknowledging the younger audience members, Uptegraff quoted an African American female astronaut, Maj. Merryl (David) Tengesdal who is the first and only black woman to fly the Air Force's elite U-2 Spy Plane.  ("I hope this will show young girls this is an option they can choose.")  "We have not had a first black female pilot in the unit, but maybe one of you who plan to be a pilot in the future will keep us in mind," Uptegraff added.
    The guest speaker, reporter Vince Sims, anchor for "Channel 11 News," first began by stating how nervous he was describing the difference between talking in front of a camera than talking in front of people.  "Looking at most of the audience in unifrom, I asked myself, what do I have in my experience to tell them, but since I was told there was going to be younger audience members, I could give them some insights on life," said Sims.
     Recognize your strengths, follow your path."  He described how he didn't have a desire to be a broadcaster.  From planning to be in law school to possibly studying speech therapy, a professor told him to get into broadcasting and he realized having strong reading, speaking and communication skills, lead him to be a successful anchor and reporter for channel 11.
     Sheila Beasley from the University of Pittsburgh explained the history of quartets and its progressive style of music from World War II to the present.  Men of Vision sang throughout the luncheon performing in the genre Beasley described.
     Though some of the entertainers weren't able to perform at the event due to weather conditions, members of hte 171 ARW stepped up to help keep the show going such as our "Tops in Blue" participant Airman 1st Class Lisa Weiss, who sang when the female vocalists couldn't attend.  The 171st Medical Group's very own 1st Lt. Darren Rogers jumped in with the Men of Vision and sang a solo.
     Appreciation awards were given to the performers, guest speakers and hotel staff for supporting this event.
     The event overall was a success.
     "It was a challenge witht he weather, but we were able to put on the event with our yearly average attendance," said Rogers.
     "During Black History Month we remember all those who accomplished things to get us where we are today, but we live for today, let it be about today," said Sims.