MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. – After being laid off from his job in late 2020, Senior Airman Jesse Yang, aerospace ground engineer technician for the 5th Maintenance Group, decided to speak with one of his old mentors who ultimately convinced him to join the Air Force. After months of training, Yang completed Basic Military Training and technical school training, and was stationed at Minot AFB.
When going through the first term Airman course, he learned about heritage clubs like the African American heritage group, Hispanic heritage group, and Pride groups. Yet he, as a person from Hmong descent, realized there was no group to represent him, as an Asian American. He felt left out and crestfallen. In that moment, he sought out to make sure every Asian American Airman would feel welcomed.
“I wanted to make Minot home”, said Yang, “I felt left out, and I wanted to make sure nobody ever felt the same way I did in that moment.”
After learning that the Minot Asian/Pacific Islander club had already been stood up, but had long since remained dormant, Yang reached out to Tech. Sgt. Christine Cherry, the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility manager at Minot AFB. After working with her, he stood up the renewed program with goals to support Airmen of Asian and Pacific Islander descent. Yang became the president of the MAPI club at the first meeting.
“My mission this year is to build a presence and a community of people like me,” said Yang. “I want to be a central hub to whoever may need support, and I plan on doing that by spreading the word of what we do and try my best to have as much info available as possible.”
Senior Airman Timothy Mok, operations manager for the 5th Civil Engineer Squadron, is the vice president of MAPI.
“I wanted to see a community blossom”, said Mok. “We’re really trying to build a blueprint for the next Airmen who will eventually replace us.”
Mok’s intention for the club is to make sure every Airman can feel at home. He says that the club is not only open to Airmen with Asian descent, but also people who may have been stationed overseas in Korea or Japan, and want to continue to hold onto that lifestyle.
Mok says that it is a hard transition for Airmen to leave an Asian country and then get stationed here at Minot. He wanted to make that transition easier by offering a small portion of that lifestyle back to every Airman here.
With over 20 members, the club has grown significantly in the last few months, however, Yang says this is not without its challenges.
“The hardest thing with maintaining the program is having 100% commitment and dependability”, said Yang. “That makes it very hard to keep our numbers consistent and keep holding the events we do.”
This month is Asian American and Pacific Islanders Heritage Month. The club held a flying lantern lighting festival on May 9 at the youth center, which was open to the public. Yang spoke about the origins of lantern lighting and kite flying, and the cultural significance that they hold. Children from Minot AFB built and colored their lanterns and kites, and with the help of the MAPI organization, flew them in the playground.
For Asian American/Pacific Islander Heritage Month, The MAPI club is selling patches and hosting a luau later this month, featuring food and music.
“Take that one big step. It takes effort, but come out and join us. Come see what Minot (And MAPI) have to offer”, said Yang.