2022 Black History Month

1st Lt. Nkwanyuo T. Abanda

164th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, Florida Army National Guard

Abanda, a signal officer who joined the Guard in 2014, recently served in Kuwait and Jordan and is now in Germany. His interest in the military started while he was growing up in Cameroon and watching American war movies. "Being in the Army and putting on the uniform has been the most gratifying thing for me."

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Takiyah Adolfo

70TH Troop Command, Missouri Army National Guard

Adolfo joined the Guard two months before 9/11. "The best thing about being a part of this organization is having an awesome extended family and support system. The National Guard has been my chosen family for 20 years, and I would not change a thing." Her biggest military accomplishment, she says, was becoming a warrant officer. "Being able to advise, teach, coach and mentor is such a rewarding job."

Lt. Col. Jeremiah A. Afuh II

G3, Joint Force Headquarters Detachment, Nebraska Army National Guard

During almost 23 years in the Guard, Afuh deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and helped victims of a hurricane in Louisiana and a tornado in Nebraska. "The observance of Black History Month brings to the forefront the accomplishments of Black men and women in this country. The hope is that their example can be emulated by the next generation and the generation after that so that the narrative of what is attainable changes, and the true potential of Black people in this country is actualized."

Staff Sgt. Russell Anderson

Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Washington Army National Guard

Anderson, an infantryman, says meeting people from all walks of life has been the highlight of his 11-year military career. Asked about the importance of Black History Month, he says: "Being recognized for those before me in their contributions in growing this great country of ours."

Pvt. Oluwatosin Beasley

745th Military Police Detachment, 90th Troop Command, Oklahoma National Guard

Beasley joined the Guard a year ago "because I am a legacy child and have been around the Army my whole life. My favorite part of serving is the community and connections I’ve made through/because of the Army." He says this observance is a time to appreciate African American culture.

Spc. Bhagirath Bhatt

B Company, 341st Military Intelligence Battalion, Washington National Guard

Bhatt has served more than seven years, including on a humanitarian mission to Belize. He has mixed feelings about observances like Black History Month. "I feel that they give us a platform to speak from, educate from, allows us the ability to truly reflect on the traumas past and present, all while keeping our eyes steadfast on manifesting change is the future."

Senior Airman Aliyah Brickhouse

192 Medical Group/ Detachment - 1, Virginia Air National Guard

Brickhouse joined the Guard in 2018, one day before going away to college. An aerospace medical technician, she says this observance "grants me the opportunity to show other young African American women how much potential they have — that they too can be a part of something bigger than themselves, give back, educate themselves and work hard just as any other male/ female, ethnically and racially diverse counterpart they may have!"

1st Lt. Javan Brown

753D Brigade Engineer Battalion, 53D Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Florida Army National Guard

Brown, a 13-year Guard veteran, loves community service and mentoring young men. Asked about Black History Month, he says: " 'What they see, they will be,' rings loud and remains true for most people, especially minorities. If a young person can envision themselves through my story or my presence, then they will be able to cross all sorts of borders, especially the borders that limit their minds."

Sgt. Stephen H. Bruke

Bravo Company, 834th Air Support Battalion, Oklahoma National Guard

Bruke is a refugee from Sudan who joined the Guard in 2015. The highlight of his service has been responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, setting up test sites, decontaminating homes for the elderly and distributing personal protective equipment. He says Black History Month is a time for "honoring and remembering those who fought for justice and equality. Those who marched the streets in 1954 for civil rights and those continuing to march for equal administration of justice under the law."

Maj. Maurice Buchanan

Headquarters Detachment Joint Force Headquarters, Florida Army National Guard

Buchanan joined Army ROTC in 2001 and commissioned in 2005. He has deployed to Iraq, Qatar and Syria. "This observance provides the chance to learn more about the many Black trailblazers in our military who created the opportunity for me to achieve what I have so far. And through continued observance, we will inspire current and future generations to not just follow, but to pave the way to an even more diverse and inclusive force."

Spc. Leaiyna Cine

Headquarters and Headquarters Company, First Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment, Florida Army National Guard

Cine, an Army intelligence analyst, joined the Guard in 2018 and is serving in Saudi Arabia for Operation Spartan Shield. "I think it is important to celebrate your heritage and use those opportunities to learn about yourself as well as others. The observance of this month reminds me of the importance of family and seizing the occasions of spending that time with the ones you care about and respect."

Sgt. 1st Class Antwoin Clark

Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Oklahoma Army National Guard

Clark says his favorite part of serving during his 14 years in the Guard was being attached to the governor’s honor guard and the Oklahoma funeral honors detail. He considers Black History Month "an opportunity to honor our past, cultivate our present, and look toward our future. ... We stand on the prayers and shoulders of those who came before us. We honor them when we remember their sacrifices and bend a knee and lift up someone else onto our shoulders."

Tech. Sgt. Janea Cook

118th Berry Field Air National Guard Base, Tennessee Air National Guard

Cook has served more than 10 years, including a deployment to Afghanistan for Operation Freedom's Sentinel in 2017. She enjoys her current role as a recruiter, giving others the same opportunity she had. "This observance makes me so proud. It is a chance to celebrate who I am and those who have paved the way for me."

Staff Sgt. Deonte Davis

133rd Medical Group, Minnesota National Guard

Davis has served since 2010, first in the Army Guard and, since 2018, in the Air Guard as an aerospace medical technician. "This observance of heritage month is vital to me because of the importance of Black history in relation to the history of the United States: one cannot exist without the other, and this is exponentially becoming a necessity to understand regardless of your ethnicity, creed, religion or gender identity."

Spc. Arionna Decree

Delta Company, 53rd Brigade Support Battalion, Florida Army National Guard

Decree, an Army culinary specialist, joined the Guard in 2017. A highlight of her service is being around other Soldiers and deploying for Defender Europe 21, her first trip outside the United States. Decree says of this month's observance: "It is my culture. It is a chance to remember those in the past who paved the way for where we are today.”

Master Sgt. Aljamien Gamble

105th Base Defense Squadron, New York Air National Guard

Gamble joined the Guard in 2004 "to be a part of something much bigger than myself." A highlight of serving is mentoring other service members and teaching them "that the road to success is not achieved by taking the path of least resistance." This month's observance "encourages me to take advantage of the freedoms and liberties that W.E.B. Du Bois, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and those alike fought so hard to achieve."

Pfc. Darius Gibson

Headquarters Headquarters Company, 53rd Brigade Support Battalion, Florida Army National Guard

Gibson joined the Guard a year ago "to be apart of something bigger than myself and to provide a better life for myself and making my family proud." Black History Month "makes me proud to be African American and happy that all of our cultures are being recognized at this level."

Master Sgt. Eugene Harrigan

192d Operations Group, Virginia Air National Guard

Harrigan joined the Guard in 2016 after active-duty service. He deployed to the United Arab Emirates in 2019. "Serving in the military service gives me the ability to show others how far we have come, creating the change necessary for success which was started by those far before me. The opportunities that are now available provide a more diverse and inclusive force."

Tech. Sgt. Brandon Antonio Hill

201st Intelligence Squadron, Hawaii Air National Guard

Hill, a cryptologic language analyst now studying Korean, joined the Guard in 2019. He welcomes Black History Month. "The opportunity to revisit and reflect upon much of the newfound 'identity' is greatly appreciated as identification, in all its respects, is what aids in a brighter future for all."

Lt. Col. Claude Howard

189th Airlift Wing, Inspector General Office, Arkansas Air National Guard

Howard has served almost 30 years and deployed to Jordan in 2019. He says the highlight of his service so far was being the first African American commander of the 189th Civil Engineer Squadron. "Black History Month is a very short period which captures the significant events over a much, much longer period in which so many African Americans have contributed with sculpting our society into what it is today. And for me to have the rare opportunity to represent the 189AW during this special occasion is more than an honor."

Staff Sgt. Taleiya Jackson

180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard

Jackson joined the Guard in 2015, deciding it was the way to accomplish all her goals without wasting time. Her favorite part of serving is the experiences that have shaped her into who she is today. "Black History Month is an opportunity for all of the world to pay homage to some of the greatest leaders, inventors and entrepreneurs who came before and still exist amongst us. It’s also an opportunity to learn, educate and continue creating history for the generations to come."

Staff Sgt. Earon M. James

Bravo Troop, 1st Squadron, 153rd Cavalry Regiment, Florida Army National Guard

James, a cavalry scout and former Marine, is deployed to Kuwait for Operation Spartan Shield. One of his proudest moments was earning his silver spurs during Defender Europe 21 in Macedonia. "This observance is very special to me. I recognize that I walk in the legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers and the Montford Point Marines. These Americans were pioneers within military service and I count it an honor to serve my country just as they did."

Staff Sgt. Jamarious Jones

118 Communications Flight, Tennessee Air National Guard

Jones joined the Guard in 2016 while coaching track at his alma mater, "partly to give the kids something positive to see and hopefully mirror." He deployed for Operation Freedom's Sentinel and Operation Inherent Resolve. He said Black History Month "means a lot given the history of how previous members were treated in the past and seeing how far times have come and knowing that things are still evolving."

Capt. Alexander Kemp

Army National Guard G4, National Guard Bureau, and 3rd Battalion/20th Group Special Forces (Airborne), Florida National Guard

Like many Guard members, Kemp joined to help pay for college. "What kept me in the Florida National Guard is the family I found within the many units I became a part of. That family helped my younger self realize that I was serving a greater purpose, and that purpose was to serve my surrounding communities and the state of Florida as a Florida Guardsman." He says this observance "not only celebrates the African American Soldiers and Guardsmen before me, but reminds all of us that African American Soldiers were indispensable in the defense of this republic and its freedom in which they were once not afforded."

Col. Katrina Lloyd

61st Troop Command, Louisiana Army National Guard

Lloyd joined the military 35 years ago. Her favorite part of serving is "passing the torch and teaching the next generation of Soldiers." She calls Black History Month "a coming together to acknowledge that Black culture has profoundly shaped American culture. It is to remind us of the insurmountable contributions and accomplishments of our Black citizens to not only America but worldwide."

Staff Sgt. Travis Matthews

201st Intelligence Squadron, Hawaii Air National Guard

Matthews served in the Navy four years before joining the Guard in 2015. "This observance is important to me because it highlights the past accomplishments of African Americans and not just the shame of slavery. ... In spite of what is often believed about African Americans, our history tells a story of perseverance, dedication and pride in the country we pledge allegiance to."

Capt. Rickia McGee

Higher Headquarters Company, 927th Combat Service Support Battalion, Florida Army National Guard

McGee joined the Guard in 2011 "to be a part of something bigger than myself." The highlight of her service is hearing from former Soldiers about their achievements. "This observance serves as a reminder of the legacy of those who have come before me and who paved the way for me to be in the position that I am today. It reminds me that even with significant opposition, you can accomplish whatever you put your mind to."

Sgt. Lisa Ayanna McKnight

HHD-Joint Force Headquarters, Florida Army National Guard

McKnight has served in the military for more than 14 years, including a recent deployment to the Middle East for Operation Enduring Freedom. She considers Black History Month "a celebration of how far we've come, all that we encompass and our tremendous contributions to the world. Most importantly, this observance reminds me of the beauty and diversity of our people, which I celebrate all year long."

Master Sgt. Kevin W. Monroe

105 Mission Support Group, New York Air National Guard

Monroe enlisted in the Army Reserve and took a break of almost 20 years before joining the Air National Guard. "African American history in America has been a very intense path. Acknowledging African heritage means we are making more progress to gaining dignity and respect."

Maj. Ludger Montfort Sr.

Joint Force Headquarters - Florida Army National Guard

Montfort joined the Guard after high school "to see the world and serve the country." During 26 years of service, he has deployed to Bahrain, Afghanistan and Iraq. "We’ve come a long way since even a few decades ago. The military has always paved the path of universal treatment of all Soldiers based on merit. Each of us that serves are part of one team. This observance reinforces the belief that we can work together when we have a common goal."

Spc. Yusuf Mustapha

Forward Support Company, 142nd Engineer Battalion, North Dakota National Guard

Mustapha is a fuel specialist who joined the Guard in 2019. He supported North Dakota communities for nine months during COVID response operations. He says this observance "means a lot to me, because it celebrates and recognizes achievements made by African Americans throughout history."

Master Sgt. Nedra Newell

164th Airlift Wing Maintenance Group, Tennessee Air National Guard

Newell has served in the Guard since 1998 and most enjoys "working with people who I consider family." As for this month's observance, "I know that every time I put on the uniform, I am honoring my grandfather, father, aunts, and uncles, for they are the family members who inspired me to serve. I don’t take anything for granted."

Staff Sgt. Catherine Njuguna

194th Medical Group, Washington Air National Guard

Njuguna, a medic from Nairobi, Kenya, joined the Guard in 2014 and deployed to Qatar in 2020. "This observance to me means acknowledgement of the Black culture/history as well as the appreciation of it. Different cultures can teach us different views and how to accommodate one another. Hence, the Black History Month gives others the opportunity to learn and celebrate Black history."

Maj. Syrita Paulding

53D Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Florida Army National Guard

Paulding joined the military in 1999 "to change the narrative that was being written for me as a young Black female from the inner city of Baltimore, Maryland." She has served in New York, Maryland and Florida and deployed to Kuwait. Black History Month "is an opportunity to share and learn the depths of American history, while recognizing the diversity in our organization and throughout the ranks."

Command Sgt. Maj. John F. Sampa

Army National Guard

Sampa, who joined in 1987, is the first African American command sergeant major of the Army National Guard and first African American command senior enlisted leader of the Texas Military Department. His military occupational specialty is combat tank armored crewman, and he deployed to Bosnia and twice to Iraq. "Hopefully, during this observance, many African Americans and other minorities are motivated and encouraged to take advantage of opportunities that are presented to them, and seek out those that are not openly presented to them, so that they, too, can have a fruitful and productive life and career. I want others to be as legendary as many other African American legends before me."

Sgt. Zacharie Sampeur

Camp Blanding Joint Training Center Higher Headquarters, Florida Army National Guard

Sampeur joined the Guard more than 10 years ago to serve, earn his citizenship and pay for college. He has deployed in recent years to Djibouti and Afghanistan. Sampeur says the observance of Black History Month "gives me even more pride to be part of a diverse and inclusive organization."

Staff Sgt. Ra-Sha J. Sanford

Headquarters Headquarters Company, 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Washington Army National Guard

Sanford has served almost seven years, including several training trips in Germany. He calls this observance bittersweet but crucial. "Maybe they don’t have a major effect, and it even may seem to pander/pacify a little, but it is something. At the very least it provides an opportunity for learning and the exposure to different ideas and ways of life. It’s an opportunity that it took an unimaginable amount of pain and work to finally get to, and I truly do appreciate that and will gladly celebrate."

Spc. Tyrell Schuler

Alpha Company, 53rd Brigade Support Battalion, Florida Army National Guard

Schuler, a petroleum supplies specialist, has served since 2014. He says a highlight of his time in uniform is helping civilians in times of crisis. Black History Month "makes me proud to be able to stand side by side with my brothers and sisters in arms, no matter what our differences are."

Lt. Col. Jason M. Scott

164th Maintenance Group, Tennessee Air National Guard

Scott is an aircraft maintenance officer who joined the Air Force in 1999 and the Air Guard in 2008. "With our difficult past in this American experiment, it is critical that we take the time to remember the struggles of those that came before us, so that we never repeat these mistakes again in our future."

Staff Sgt. Louis Warren Smith Jr.

Alpha Battery 1st 265th Air Defense Artillery, Florida National Guard

Smith joined in 2015 and says his favorite part of serving is meeting new Soldiers and leaders. This observance "provides me the platform to provide encouragement. Never stop being all you can be for your Soldiers and leaders. No matter what tasking, mission or environment you are in, be positively impactful."

Chief Master Sgt. Tony E. Smith

213th Engineering Installation Squadron, New York Air National Guard

Smith joined the Guard in 1984, a year after arriving in the United States from Jamaica. He is a retired New York City police detective. Black History Month "allows me to look back and show appreciation for the struggles, the sacrifices and the accomplishments of our ancestors, which allows us to be in a much better position today than they even imagined. I also see this as a time to do our due diligence and learn more facts about our history and continue to educate our children so that they are fully aware of their heritage."

Sgt. 1st Class Keondrick Montez Thompson

233rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute, Arkansas Army National Guard

Thompson has served almost 21 years, including in Iraq. His family legacy of service extends to World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and Desert Storm. "Observing Black History Month to me means understanding the importance of the legacy of our ancestors to the utmost and being proud of their gifts, wisdom, accomplishments, strength and spirit."

2nd Lt. Charles Toliver

Higher Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron, 153rd Cavalry Regiment, Florida Army National Guard

Toliver, a medical service officer, joined the Guard three years ago "to help as many people as possible and to serve my community." He says Black History Month “means a lot! It shows that we are growing over time and that our service is being recognized.”

Senior Airman Odayne Tully

105th Maintenance Squadron, New York Air National Guard

Tully, an aircraft fuel systems journeyman who joined in 2018, says "seeing an aircraft that I worked on takeoff to complete a mission" is a feeling that never gets old. "For many years we have seen the positive impact that African Americans have had on the history of this very mighty nation. I can specifically look back to the Tuskegee Airmen and the heights they were able to reach both physically and figuratively. They stood up and made a positive impact on this, the world’s greatest Air Force, and that is a daily motivation for me as an African American Airman."

Capt. Natasha J. Vanreil

105th Medical Group, New York Air National Guard

Vanreil, a health services administrator, joined the Guard 25 years ago. The highlight of her service, she says, was helping wounded service members as they arrived at the Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. "This observation means that we are being recognized and that we contributing to the nation. We are not in the background just observing and not participating in daily life."

Capt. Avery Walker

179th Cyber Protection Team, Nebraska National Guard

Walker, a cyber operations officer, joined the Guard in 2009 and has deployed to Iraq and Cyber Command at Fort Meade, Maryland. "This observance is a time to show where America has been, where it currently is, and where it is going. In all three of those phases, African Americans have and will continue to have a large impact."

Airman 1st Class MaKayla Weaver

159 Fighter Wing/ Force Support Squadron, Louisiana Air National Guard

Weaver joined the Guard two years ago for the benefits and "most importantly, to be a part of something bigger than myself." She says Black History Month "allows me to appreciate the sacrifices and contributions made by African Americans. This observance is important to me because it is a part of my history and it serves as a reminder to always strive for excellence and greatness."

Senior Enlisted Advisor Tony L. Whitehead

National Guard Bureau

A highlight of Whitehead's almost four decades of service is "learning things about myself I never knew existed … and learning things about my fellow service members that helped me appreciate the differences in others instead of searching for commonalities." He says this observance "is a reminder of my responsibility to prepare a future for those I will never meet, and an opportunity to say thank you – through my actions – to those who never met me! When I think of the sacrifices of my ancestors and the things they were willing to endure to provide me with a future – one far greater than I could have ever imagined – I remember that I don’t have a right to have a bad day. … And now you know why I wear a big smile!"

Spc. Destiny Williams

3rd Battalion,161st Infantry Regiment, Washington Army National Guard

Williams has served in the Guard since 2017 and completes a nine-month deployment to Poland this month. Black History Month "shows me that nothing is as expected as it should be. I mean that when being in the military, you will always be moving. Nothing will remain the same and you will always have to be flexible."

Master Sgt. Macherique L. Williams

164th Security Forces Squadron, Tennessee Air National Guard

Williams has served since 1998 and deployed to Kuwait and twice to Afghanistan. "This observance means that the more people that see me in this uniform, the more they will believe that they, too, can be and do some of the same things I’m doing. Honestly, they can do even greater things."

Chief Master Sgt. Maurice Williams

Office of the Command Chief of the Air National Guard

During a military career of almost 35 years, Williams has most enjoyed connecting with people to motivate and inspire them to be successful, and playing a role to allow the United States to continue to be a superpower and one of the greatest places in the world to live. A Legion of Merit recipient, he deployed to Qatar in 2010. "We honor the triumphs and struggles of African Americans throughout history and the present as we continue to try and form a 'more perfect union' in our country as stated in the preamble of the U.S. Constitution. Many of us were educated in schools in which the perspectives, experiences and discoveries of black Americans were not an integral part of our learning."

Sgt. 1st Class Tramal Williams

Recruiting and Retention Battalion, Bravo Company Area 7, Washington National Guard

Williams joined the Guard in 2015 and deployed to Afghanistan. A highlight of his service: "Taking care of the Soldiers that we bring into our organization and showing them respect." He considers this observance "a celebration of every single person who is a part of the African culture. It is representative of our struggles, our resilience, and our triumphs."

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Marcus E. Wilson

Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (M-Day), Joint Force Headquarters (Tech), Florida Army National Guard

Wilson is a network systems technician who has served 18 years, including in Iraq and Kuwait. Highlights for him include travel and expanding his knowledge about information technology. "Observing Black History Month affords me and my family the ability to look at our past in this country and see more than slavery. Black people are smart, strong, innovative and resilient. For these reasons, I enjoy celebrating Black History Month and believe it should incorporated into American history year round."