JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — Service members and civilians took the time to look back on the accomplishments of African-Americans in the military during a Black History Month luncheon Feb. 19 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.
The theme for the event was heritage and horizons: the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen.
The 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, whose equal opportunity office hosted the event, has a lineage that began with the Tuskegee Airmen of the 332nd Fighter Group during World War II.
"The legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen is an important part of American History," said Maj. Bernard Brogan, the operations officer for the 72nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 35th Signal Brigade, U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command.
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American fighter pilots in the Air Force and played an integral role in the desegregation of the U.S. military, said Brogan, the keynote speaker for the event and a Muscle Shoals, Ala., native.
In addition to Brogan's speech on the history of African-American military aviators, guests at the luncheon were treated to a poetry reading and a performance by the H-6 Jazz Trio.
"That jazz was definitely on point," said 1st Lt. Kyle Frazer, the aide de camp for the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and a Bloomfield, Conn., native.
The band played an improvised blues and jazz piece, giving the audience a taste of traditional African-American music.
Frazer said he thinks it is important for the military to hold observance events, not just for Black History Month, but for all minority groups, because of their many contributions to America.
"Going in to the future, we've got to keep having these events," said Frazer. "We're here, able to do the things we're doing, because of the work they did in the past.
At the end the luncheon, Brig. Gen. Robert Harris, commanding general of the 194th Engineer Brigade, 416th Engineer Command and a Hixon, Tenn., native, shared with the audience a quotation that he said brought meaning not only to Black History Month observance, but to the observance of all Americans' contributions to their military and their country.
"There's a wise old saying," said Harris, "A man can't know where he's going until he has learned where he's been.