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Airman Embraces Diversity During Hispanic Heritage Month

By Air Force Senior Airman Aubrey White

“Diversidad estimula la creatividad, facilitando el desarrollo de ideas y soluciones para resolver desafíos complejos. La creatividad es impulsada por nuestras características únicas, apoyadas por experiencias personales, antecedentes sociales y culturales, y nuestra fortaleza educativa y filosófica. Estas características facilitan múltiples puntos de vista, ideas y soluciones; y es lo que nos permite superar cualquier reto.”

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Air Force Maj. Nelson AvilesFigueroa, commander of the 4th Communications Squadron at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., grew up on the island of Puerto Rico where he said he developed values like honesty, humility, loyalty and a hard-working mentality, which helped to make him the airman he is today. Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 each year, highlights the achievements and contributions of Hispanic citizens. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Aubrey White

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Translation: “Diversity enables creativity, facilitating the development of ideas and solutions to resolve complex challenges. Creativity is driven by our unique characteristics, supported by personal experiences, social and cultural backgrounds, and educational and philosophical strengths. These characteristics enable multiple perspectives, ideas and solutions, allowing us to overcome any challenge,” said Air Force Maj. Nelson AvilesFigueroa, commander of the 4th Communications Squadron here.

As a young man who grew up on the island of Puerto Rico, AvilesFigueroa embraces the values that made him the airman he is today.

“Honesty, humility, loyalty and a hard-working mentality, all values deeply embedded in my culture, make me a better airman,” he said. “That foundation has helped me progress in my career and most definitely helped me become the airman I am today.”

AvilesFigueroa said he is proud to be Puerto Rican. He employs Hispanic Heritage Month, he said, as a time to reflect on where his career began.

His journey to serve in the Air Force started after he graduated from the University of Puerto Rico. With a degree in mathematics and a wife and two children to care for, he felt his only options for a stable income were to become a math teacher or join the military.

“I grew up in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, and although Puerto Rico is a part of the United States, we don’t speak English,” he recalled. “My first words in English were actually at Basic Military Training, when the military training instructor was in front of me, yelling at me, as I was trying to digest everything.”

Although he somewhat understood simple terminology and instructions, AvilesFigueroa said he had the pleasure of meeting a bilingual Hispanic trainee from New York who was eager to help him.

“BMT was all about teamwork and determination,” he said. “When the language barrier made things ‘interesting’ for me, he translated the more complex instructions and actions [so] I dedicated all of my limited free time during BMT to improving my English skills.”

AvilesFigueroa said his determination was essential to completing basic military training in hopes of providing a better life for his family. His family is what drives him to be successful, he said, and he couldn’t let them down.

Upon completion of BMT and technical school, AvilesFigueroa entered the communications career field as a radar maintainer. His first assignment was at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., where AvilesFigueroa said he and his family were completely out of their comfort zone.

With a new lifestyle, he found a new way to connect to the people around him using his culture.

“[Hispanic Heritage Month] is an opportunity for me to share my heritage with my co-workers,” he said. “I use this month to educate peers about Puerto Rico and about what being Puerto Rican means. A lot of people actually don’t know that Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States, or how our economy developed, so I use this opportunity just to share a little bit about the uniqueness of our culture.”

He believes it’s also important for other airmen to share their heritage because the diversity they bring to the Air Force is integral in finding solutions to daily challenges.

AvilesFigueroa plans to be involved with as many aspects of Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations on base as possible and encourages all to use this time to reflect on the significance of diversity.

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About Edited by Susan Bainbridge

At age 6, Susan was destined to be a journalist and photographer.  In 1980, Susan founded Bainbridge News and The Bainbridge Chronicle Newspaper. Bainbridge News specializes in Military and National Politics, including Military Funerals and Burials and Political Funerals and Burials.  Susan has covered the White House, the Pentagon and Capitol Hill. She has covered every president from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama. Recognized for her versatility, Susan has also covered finance, crime, civil rights events, marches, sports, musical events and more. In 1990, she established Bainbridge Photography, an On-Location photography company. In addition to military and political events, including Military and Political funerals and burials, Bainbridge Photography expanded into covering ALL funerals and burials, receptions, weddings, real estate, inventory, insurance, portrait, head shot, pets, fire and Hazmat.  Miss Bainbridge believes in going the extra mile. "My Clients always come first." In 1980, Susan began her career in Washington, D.C., working for WMZQ Radio as a reporter and guest hostess from 1980 to 1985. Intrigued by radio, Susan wanted to write, freelancing for radio, television and print newspapers, including AP, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Northern Virginia Sun, The Press-Republican and The Bainbridge Chronicle (established by Susan Bainbridge). In 1986, Susan worked at WDCA-TV Channel 20 as a guest hostess for "Eye On Washington." From 1990 to 1994, Susan reported and anchored for "The Arlington Weekly News." Additionally, she produced a segment for the G. Gordon Liddy Radio Show. A prolific writer, while in high school in 1977, Bainbridge wrote an episode for NBC's "Little House on The Prairie" entitled "Laura's Best Friend." Though the show's producers did not use the script then, NBC producers encouraged Susan to pursue a writing and journalism career. Susan is a member of the National Press Club, the National Press Photographer's Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. Susan Bainbridge's recognitions include from former Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush and Bill Clinton, former First Lady Nancy Reagan, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the late actor Lorne Greene, among many others. BAINBRIDGE NEWS was founded in 1980 by Susan Bainbridge (a sixth generation writer), a third generation journalist, a first generation photographer and a fourth generation entrepreneur. She is the first generation to establish a news business. Bainbridge News is dedicated in honor of Miss Bainbridge's late grandfather and idol, Mark S. Watson (The Baltimore Sun editor and war correspondent from 1920 to his death in 1966).

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