WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – National Hispanic Heritage Month runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 and recognizes the vital contributions and rich culture of Hispanic Americans.
In line with this year’s theme, “Unidos — Inclusivity for a Stronger Nation,” Team Wright-Patt is celebrating Hispanic American personnel who display strength through support.
This theme means a lot to me as an immigrant who moved to the U.S.
Staff Sgt. Jaime Suarez Berrocal
Meet Staff Sgt. Jaime Suarez Berrocal, a bioenvironmental engineering instructor at the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, part of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
Suarez Berrocal is also president of the 711 HPW Junior Force Council, providing professional development opportunities for active-duty and civilian personnel. Born and raised in Peru, he shares how the theme resonates with him.
“This theme means a lot to me as an immigrant who moved to the U.S.,” he said. “When I arrived at my first duty station in Missouri, I did not have any friends or family remotely close to me. My dorm friends and fellow Airmen became my family, and we all took care of each other.
“We had friends from all over the country and the world, yet we all bonded and looked out for each other like brothers, despite our different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.”
Hispanic Americans have made several contributions to the history, culture and achievements of the United States. An individual who inspires Suarez Berrocal is former NASA astronaut José Hernandez.
“To me, he’s the truest form of inspiration, as he worked his way up from poverty and took advantage, through his hard work, of every opportunity the U.S. and his parents provided him,” he said.
Hispanic Heritage Month coincides with important dates in many communities, such as various independence days in Latin America.
Every October in Lima, Peru, the Lord of Miracles procession takes place. Dating back to the 17th century, Peruvian Catholics express devotion to the “Lord of Miracles” saint. Today, this religious act is celebrated around the world in Peruvian communities with traditional feasts and donning of purple.
“During all of October, the country paints itself purple and gold to celebrate the saint,” Suarez Berrocal said. “My favorite soccer team, Alianza Lima, also changes the team’s colors from blue to purple, and the players wear purple kits. Finally, we have a lot of fun meals and desserts prepared, but the most notorious one being turron de dona pepa, which is delicious.”
As a Hispanic American in the Air Force, Suarez Berrocal develops future generations of bioenvironmental engineering officers and technicians.
“Our duty as BEs is critical to the Air Force mission, as we aim to identify, assess and recommend controls for workplace hazards,” he said. “Additionally, we provide environmental monitoring on base and have emergency-response capabilities. Finally, by securing a healthy environment throughout Air Force installations, we provide Airmen and their families safe environments to work and live in.”