CLARK AIR BASE, Philippines (AFNS) -- (This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series. These stories focus on individual Airmen, highlighting their Air Force story.)
Asian-Pacific Americans have fought and served with the U.S. military for more than two centuries. The legacy continues for three Filipino-American Airmen deployed with U.S. Pacific Command’s air contingent at Clark Air Base, where they fulfill a number of roles ranging from medical support to aircrew flight equipment and aircraft maintenance.
“Knowing I am supporting the mission while working alongside the Philippine military makes me so proud of where I'm from and what I'm doing,” said Staff Sgt. Jay Perocho Acasio, a native of Ozamiz City in the Misamis Occidental, Philippines.
“I've had the opportunity to talk with the Philippine pilots and show them what I do. Seeing how excited and interested they were really made me glad I'm here,” said Acasio, an aircrew flight equipment journeyman with the 51st Operations Support Squadron at Osan AB, South Korea.
Similarly, Tech. Sgt. Kathlyn Hidalgo, a native of Guiguinto in Bulacan, Philippines, explained how she draws strength from her heritage while serving at home as a U.S. Airman.
“It makes me feel so proud to be both an American Airman and a Filipino,” said Hidalgo, an independent duty medical technician with the 25th Fighter Squadron at Osan AB. “To be able to serve the country I hold citizenship in and the country I grew up in at the same time is such an honor. Looking at myself wearing the U.S. Air Force uniform and to be in my home country … I have no words to describe how I feel.”
Airmen join the U.S. Air Force for a number of reasons, but for these Filipinos, serving in the U.S. armed forces affords them an opportunity for their military commitment to transcend serving a single nation.
"Knowing that my service benefits not only the U.S. and Philippines, but the international community, opens my eyes to a broader view of the military,” Acasio said. "We have so many diversities serving in the U.S. military and knowing that as a U.S. Airman working with the military of the country I was born in … it just amazes me.
"I have gotten a few questions from Filipino military members about my national background and it makes me proud to say, 'I'm Filipino serving in the U.S. military,’” he added.
This service before self attitude stems from a long line of Filipinos who have served in the U.S. armed forces dating as far back as the War of 1812. While the battlefields have changed, their commitment to service remains the same.
“I wanted to be a part of the U.S. Air Force,” said Senior Airman Nikkie Javier, a Norwalk, California, native, whose family moved to the U.S. from the Philippines. “Our mission here is very important because we’re here supporting our Filipino allies. We don’t take our allies for granted and instead show the world where we stand, side by side, with the Philippines. It makes me proud to be a part of something so great.”
Both nations benefit from Filipino Airmen serving in the U.S. military, as they are able to translate cultural differences in a way both nationalities can understand.
“I feel like I am a liaison or bridge for both countries,” Hidalgo said. “I am able to explain what is going on to my fellow Airmen and, likewise, to the Filipinos. No matter how big or small a country is, we need each other’s support, and that’s really why we are here, supporting our friends and for me, my family too.”
When asked how she feels about being home, Hidalgo said that for the first time in seven years, “It’s so good to be home. Just being able to interact with Filipinos on a daily basis is … amazing.”
Hidalgo, Acasio and Javier are here with the newly stood up air contingent created at the invitation of the Philippine government, utilizing the Airmen and aircraft already in place at the conclusion of the Balikatan exercise. The purpose of the air contingent is to help build the capacity of the Philippine Air Force in order to address local and regional security concerns. These three Filipino-American Airmen are serving both countries as a result of the partnership.
“I’ve seen the sacrifices service members make to keep our nations free,” said Javier, a precision guided munitions crew chief with the 51st Munitions Squadron at Osan AB. “I’m humbled to be here and a part of this mission.”