DAF hosts Black History Month STEM achievement panel

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Spencer Slocum
  • 316th Wing Public Affairs

The Department of the Air Force hosted a Black History Month event at the General Jacob E. Smart Conference Center, Feb. 23.

Led by the Black/African American Employment Strategy Team, or BEST, the theme of the event was African American STEM achievements.

The panel began with remarks from Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. where he highlighted the significant contributions African Americans have made in fields related to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and the importance of freedom for all to serve in the military. 

“It was a readiness imperative to have the freedom to serve and thrive to have effective airpower without regard to race, color, religion or national origin,” Brown said.

Brown also spoke about the influence certain individuals such as the 33rd President of the U.S. Harry S. Truman, the Tuskegee Airmen and the first Secretary of the Air Force W. Stuart Symington, have had throughout Air Force history.

Before closing his speech, Brown spoke on the impact African American members have had serving in the military.

“When the nation needed talent, when the nation needed courage, when the nation needed determination, when the nation needed [the] skill to defend our freedom, African Americans were ready and eager to serve,” he said.

The day continued with remarks from the event moderator Col. Janelle T.H. Jackson, Air Force Office of Scientific Research deputy director and Detachment 14 commander.

“Today’s discussion is a solution focused dialogue with heavy emphasis exuding professionalism, empathy and compassion at all times,” Jackson said.

The day’s guest speakers were then invited to share a short background on themselves. Panelists included members such as Maj. Peter Saunders, Air University Department of Engineering Physics at the Air Force Institute of Technology assistant professor of atmospheric science and Dr. Reginald Turner, Air University School of Systems and Logistics associate dean.

Panel members were also asked about the importance of celebrating Black History Month, what challenges they have faced, ways to overcome barriers and the experiences that exposed them to STEM career fields.

“I had a sixth or seventh grade math teacher who submitted a grant to buy some computers for his class,” Turner said. “He got the proposal funded [and bought three basic computers] and I was hooked. At that point, I had to be involved in anything that involved computers.”

The event concluded with closing remarks from Brig. Gen. Devin R. Pepper, Strategy, Plans and Policy Directorate deputy director, who spoke on the Space Force’s STEM perspective. Pepper focused on STEM’s key role in the space domain and its necessity to keep ahead of America’s adversaries.

“The panel did a fantastic job,” Pepper said. “Thank you to everyone who had a hand in bringing this together.”