Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

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Tech. Sgt. Rolando M. Balmoja Jr., Florida Air National Guard
Tech. Sgt. Rolando M. Balmoja Jr. Florida Air National Guard

Balmoja, 35, who is from Isabela, Philippines, is at the 101st Air and Space Operations Group at Tyndall Air Force Base, where he specializes in electrical power production and HVAC systems. He joined in June, 2002, "to have a good path to a career." His favorite part of serving is "being part of a team and meeting new people and making lifelong friends."

Tech. Sgt. Harold
Tech. Sgt. Harold "Bobby" Budinger III 174th Attack Wing, New York Air National Guard

Budinger, 48, who serves at Hancock Field, New York, joined the Air National Guard on June 26, 2013, after serving in the Army National Guard and Reserves. "I enjoy serving and I wanted to finish my military career," Budinger said. In civilian life, he is a deputy county administrator/personnel officer for Allegany County. He has an MBA in business administration and is married with three daughters. Another thing to know: "I never go by Harold," he says. "I have always gone by my middle name which is Robert, so most people know me as Bobby."

Staff Sgt. Adrienne DeMott, 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania National Guard
Staff Sgt. Adrienne DeMott 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania National Guard

DeMott, 35, is serving at Task Force Spartan, Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. She is in Resource Management for Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 28th Infantry Division. She joined in August, 2008, to, in her words, "follow in my father's footsteps - he is my inspiration." She especially appreciates the military's diversity. "Plus, I enjoy meeting people from around the world," she says. DeMott is working on a political science degree and loves "anything outdoors," including biking and hiking. Her best friend is Niko, a 2-year-old German Shepherd.

Chief Master Sgt. Bruce Fong, 174th Attack Wing/Communications Flight, New York Air National Guard
Chief Master Sgt. Bruce Fong 174th Attack Wing/Communications Flight, New York Air National Guard

Fong, 55, served in the Air Force from July 1980 through July 1984, and joined the Air National Guard in February, 1996. Fong wanted to become a pilot but color vision issues precluded that career. "My initial reaction was that of disappointment," he says. "But inside I knew that I still wanted to be in the military and serve my country." His parents signed for him to enlist at 17. "The job I did had me working on planes all the time; so if I couldn't fly them at least I could be around them," he says. Fong, who is a chief enlisted manager at Hancock Field in Syracuse, New York, still hope to attain a private pilot's certification.

Master Sgt. Patricia Garrity, 174th Operational Support Squadron, New York Air National Guard
Master Sgt. Patricia Garrity 174th Operational Support Squadron, New York Air National Guard

Garrity, 35, joined on March 27, 2003, after finding a Guard unit close to home. This was less than a year after she graduated high school. "I was going to go to college but realized my tuition wasn't covered 100% and I would need to take another loan out," she says. "My family didn't have a lot of money and I didn't want to go more into debt." After talking to a recruiter at Hancock field, she says, "I finally found what I wanted to do with my life... learn a trade, get assistance with paying for college and serve my country." Garrity describes herself as half Korean and half Irish. "My father and grandfather both served in the military. I'm proud to be able to say I'm able to keep the family tradition of serving in the military." Her job involves analysis of intelligence data.

Lt. Col. Diana Harrington, 115th Fighter Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard
Lt. Col. Diana Harrington 115th Fighter Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard

Harrington, 39, is a personnel officer at Joint Forces Headquarters, Wisconsin. She joined the Air Force in June, 2001, after learning about the military from a college friend. Seven years later, she transferred to the Wisconsin Air National Guard." I wanted to travel and do something meaningful after graduating from college," she says. "I come from a non-military/immigrant family and am proud to say I am the first generation of my family to volunteer for military service," Harrington says. Among other jobs, she directs the state’s partnership with Nicaragua. Fun fact: she knows Chinese, Spanish, French and Brazilian Portuguese. When she’s not studying for a nursing degree, she and her husband may be cooking or riding motorcycles together.

Sgt. 1st Class Dawn Ho, 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania National Guard
Sgt. 1st Class Dawn Ho 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania National Guard

Ho, 37, is on duty at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. She enlisted in 2002 "for challenge and fun," she says. Her favorite parts of service are traveling, learning and pride in being a part of the military. Ho says likes poetry, drawing and painting, boxing and hiking. She speaks Chinese Mandarin, Chinese Cantonese and some French.

Spc. Keiko Kruger, 928th Area Support Medical Company, Colorado Army National Guard
Spc. Keiko Kruger 928th Area Support Medical Company, Colorado Army National Guard

Kruger, 34, is a licensed dentist in Japan and is studying to become a dentist in the United States so she can care for fellow Soldiers, their families and veterans. She's serving at Fort Carson, Colorado, as a dental specialist. Kruger, the mother of three boys, is married to a U.S. Navy veteran. The family moved from Hawaii to Colorado in 2016, when she joined the military. She is a first-generation Japanese-American immigrant. "I like to drill with my unit," she says. "The members of our unit are respectful and always helping each other out."

Capt. Alpa Ladani, Connecticut National Guard
Capt. Alpa Ladani Connecticut National Guard

Ladani joined the Guard in 1997 for a popular reason: It paid for college at the University of Connecticut. "In hindsight," says Ladani, 38, "the free education was just an additional benefit, because I have so much more to be thankful for all due to my time spent in the Guard." Her awards include medals for service in Afghanistan and Iraq. "My favorite moments of part of serving have truly been the lifelong friends that I have made throughout the years and the ability to travel. It's also the humbling experiences that allow me to stay grounded and truly appreciate the smaller things in life," Ladani says.

Sgt. Maj. Aaron D. Mayne, Michigan Army National Guard
Sgt. Maj. Aaron D. Mayne Michigan Army National Guard

Mayne, 42, of Lansing, joined in 1993 and now serves in the 272nd Regional Support Group. He enlisted in 1993 as a 12C Bridge crewman, "because my father served as an engineer in Germany and my grandfather served in WWII as a tanker." His favorite part of serving "is the opportunity to interact with Soldiers from all walks of life and see them come together for the common goal of selfless service to their state and country." He is married to a retired Michigan Army National Guard sergeant first class and the couple has two children, a son in 5th grade and a daughter attending the University of Tennessee.

Lt. Col. Jennifer Mumme, Louisiana National Guard
Lt. Col. Jennifer Mumme Louisiana National Guard

Mumme, a cyber officer at Louisiana's Joint Forces Headquarters, joined in May 1999 because, she says, her father's "Air Force adventures" inspired her. In fact, her dad met her mother while he was stationed in South Korea. "Too many to count.," Mumme says of favorite moments in uniform. "I thoroughly enjoyed commanding the 214 Engineering and Installation Squadron and working with the Command Group. I'm blessed to have met so many amazingly dedicated people in the military. The Guard truly is a family," she says. Mumme met her husband in the ROTC program at Texas State University. She served on active duty, "transitioned to the Air Force Reserves when we decided to start a family and then joined the Guard when our children were school-age," she said. "The flexibility to transition easily among components allowed me to maintain a career while finding a good balance with my family, for which I am blessed and thankful."

Tech. Sgt. Allen Nancarrow, 102nd Security Forces Squadron, Massachusetts Air National Guard
Tech. Sgt. Allen Nancarrow 102nd Security Forces Squadron, Massachusetts Air National Guard

Nancarrow, 29, hails from an Air Force family and joined March 26, 2008. Spurred by the 9/11 tragedy, he enlisted in the ANG a year out of high school. "The desire to be a part of an organization that makes a true difference in the world after such tragedy was a major inspiration to me," he says. "My grandfather, father, mother and uncle all served in the USAF, so continuing that legacy was also very important to me." A favorite part of his service is watching new Airmen progress, he said. "Watching these young men and women develop is the most rewarding experience as an NCO."

Spc. Nguyen Nguyen, Colorado National Guard
Spc. Nguyen Nguyen Colorado National Guard

Nguyen, 24, a supply specialist, joined in June, 2011. "First and foremost, I joined to serve and protect the country that welcomed my family and I with open arms when we arrived to the U.S. from Vietnam," he said. "Secondly, I joined to better myself as a person and to be an example for my little brother."

Capt. Yumi Panui, Connecticut National Guard
Capt. Yumi Panui Connecticut National Guard

Panui joined the Army at 37 after a recruiter assured her she could make use of her civilian experience in behavioral health. She landed in Connecticut in late February from her home state of Hawaii – in time to weather four Nor'Easters in March. "I am very excited to be here and to get to work," Panui said with a wide smile. "This is a new adventure for me, and I look forward to starting this new chapter of my life." Except for the weather, Panui has found the transition to the Northeast to be smooth. While her husband ties up the last loose ends on his career as a Honolulu police officer, she leans heavily on her newfound Guard family as she makes her way around Connecticut. "I'm so fortunate and appreciative that I have had a group of strong, female officers to surround myself with," Panui said. "I'm a strong woman, and need other strong women in my life that help as a support system. I've met some really amazing, phenomenal women in just my short time here."

Sgt. Stacy Pesut, Kentucky National Guard
Sgt. Stacy Pesut Kentucky National Guard

Pesut, 27, joined the Guard in 2011 and serves as a human resources NCO with the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. After serving as a missionary in the Philippines with her family, she says she wanted to "help and serve people, and I thought that serving in the Kentucky Army National Guard would be a great opportunity for me to get to do that and fulfill that calling." Pesut has used her singing ability to perform the National Anthem more than 10 times honoring service members and their families at a variety of events.

Staff Sgt. Kelsey Searls, Iowa Air National Guard
Staff Sgt. Kelsey Searls Iowa Air National Guard

Searls, the 132nd Wing Medical Group Airman of the Year in 2016, enlisted in 2012 to help pay for college, she says. "It was also an opportunity to gain new experiences and skills that could help me in the civilian world. My original goal was to prep more for a civilian career; however my path changed and I'm heading toward a military career."

Staff Sgt. James Suong, Iowa National Guard
Staff Sgt. James Suong Iowa National Guard

Suong, 47, joined the Iowa National Guard in 1996 and serves in the 671st Troop Command. He cites his Cambodian childhood as the reason for enlisting. "I spent time in a child labor camp in Cambodia in 1975. I joined the Iowa National Guard as a Cavalry scout, so I could help protect other people from the horrific acts I saw as a child." His son, a high school senior, also plans to serve in the military. "My favorite moment," he says of his time in service, "was helping in the rebuilding of our community due to tornados and flood devastation."

Tech. Sgt. Michael James Thompson, 167th Maintenance Squadron, West Virginia Air National Guard
Tech. Sgt. Michael James Thompson 167th Maintenance Squadron, West Virginia Air National Guard

Thompson, 33, joined the service May 5, 2007, because he never forgot how one member of the U.S. military helped his mother, her sisters and their mother leave Vietnam by sponsoring them. "I always hoped that if I joined I would make a difference in someone else's life," says Thompson, of Inwood, W.Va. "My favorite part of serving is the people I get to work with," says Thompson, who works in countermeasures and navigation systems.

Lt. Col. Tanya Trout, Texas Army National Guard
Lt. Col. Tanya Trout Texas Army National Guard

Trout, 45, commissioned in 1996 and served on active duty until Sept. 4, 2001, then transferred into the Texas Army National Guard in February, 2002. She came to the United States from Seoul, Korea, at 4 months old and became a U.S. citizen in 1977. As G-6 of the 36th Infantry Division at Camp Mabry, Texas, she enjoys mentoring young Soldiers and officers. "It is always a very rewarding experience when you see someone you have invested your mentorship with to excel or succeed at their goals both military and civilian," she says. Her father served in the Marines in Vietnam and later joined the Army as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Infantry Division. Although a reluctant applicant, she received a four-year ROTC scholarship. Besides mentoring fellow Soldiers, "I enjoy the evolving challenge of our operational environment and figuring out how to provide continual mission command communications support with the evolving cyber threat."

Senior Airman Nyan W. Tun, 109th Airlift Wing, New York Air National Guard
Senior Airman Nyan W. Tun 109th Airlift Wing, New York Air National Guard

Tun, 33, who serves in the New York Air National Guard as an avionics systems technician, joined the Guard in December 2013 because he wanted to give back to the nation that provided great opportunities for him, he says. Tun was born in Burma, or Myanmar, and immigrated to the U.S. in 1994. His training included 11 months learning about the various communication, navigation and mission systems of the C-130 aircraft. "I was ecstatic to work on aircraft avionics systems, they piqued my interest unlike anything else before. I had found a job I truly loved, my calling," he says. He now works full time at the 109th Wing in Scotia, New York.