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NEWS | May 17, 2024

AAPI Heritage Month: Relevance and diversity are more than words for UH-60 Black Hawk pilot

By Master Sgt. Arthur M. Wright D.C. National Guard

As a District of Columbia Army National Guard operations officer and UH-60 Black Hawk pilot, CW2 Christopher Alora is a role model for young adults who embrace having goals, contingency plans, and options.

“I joined the U.S. Army originally serving active duty in 2010,” CW2 Alora said. “I was an aircraft electrician who was drawn to aviation, public service, and a college education—and why not do all three simultaneously.”

He was stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky., for six years, before relocating back home to California, and eventually transferring to the D.C. National Guard. While reflecting on his dynamic military career, he’s reminded of his own family’s response to significant challenges.

“I’m a first-generation Filipino American. My mother and grandmother moved here to the United States in the 1980’s and we had to learn how to adapt and contribute,” he said. “I’m proud to show people that someone like me can climb the ranks as a U.S. Army aviator making a positive difference.”

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders across various nationalities and ancestry— Filipino, Southeast Asian, Asian Indian, Polynesian, Korean, Chinese, Japanese—have a rich legacy of honorable service in the United States dating back to the War of 1812. CW2 Alora believes more should be done to bring light to untold stories.

“I think too many Americans either forget or don’t know the number of key leaders in the AAPI community who have made profound impacts in defense and overall society,” he said.

During World War II, his paternal grandfather served in the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE), part of a highly trained military unit focused on Japanese suppression and defense in the Pacific. In 1942, three months after the start of the Battle of Bataan, his grandfather would be a prisoner of war (POW) in the Bataan Death March, a grim reality of war where POWs were sometimes tortured and killed.

“My grandfather’s courage inspired me to serve my country,” he said. “Knowing he’s part of American history makes me very proud. And I think there’s much more space and precedence for AAPI representation in the military. Yes, we’ve faced challenges like every other minority has faced but that shouldn’t deter us.”

Relevance and diversity are more than words and commemorative themes for CW2 Alora. In addition to an active presence in the National Capital Region, DCARNG Aviation is comprised of four different units with AAPIs visibly represented in all sections from pilots and maintainers to administration and operations.

“I’ve drilled with several different National Guard states, but I think the D.C. National Guard ranks high in diversity. Not only in terms of race—but all the protected backgrounds to include religion and sexual orientation,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Rooks, State Army Aviation Officer (SAAO), D.C. National Guard. “I’m always proud to tell people that I’m a Capital Guardian because of the diversity that we have and what that represents. Diversity is a strength because it brings a significant number of perspectives, and all those factors will only strengthen an organization. How we all contribute to fight our nation’s wars.”

For CW2 Alora there’s also a commitment to social responsibility outside of uniform. Since 2014, he’s partnered with youth mentorship organizations to include Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. He believes being a role model and enhancing civic consciousness is pivotal for today’s youth and young adults.

“I believe community is the instrument to uplift the youth in our society. We must invest in the relationships we build and the surroundings we inhabit to empower those to our left and right,” CW2 Alora said. “Community is what makes us stronger, better, and reminds us to be our very best.”

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