AAPI Heritage Month Spotlight: Lt. Col. Chin Tam

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Sarah Williams
  • 17th Training Wing Public Affairs

This month’s observance is Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage. The 17th Training Wing recognizes this culture, its diversity, and how it makes the force stronger. Each week in May, the 17th TRW will highlight service members of different backgrounds and experiences. This week we are highlighting Lt. Col. Chin Tam, 313th Training Squadron director of operations. 


1.  What is your job?

I am the director of operations at the 313 Training Squadron. I oversee the daily training operations of 28 diverse advanced courses provided to our U.S. Air Force, joint service, and international partners.


2.  Tell us about your Asian or Pacific Islander Heritage.

I am a first-generation Chinese American. I was born in Hong Kong and immigrated to Hawaii when I was seven.


3.  What does Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month mean to you?

AAPI month is an opportunity to showcase and recognize the enduring positive influence and contributions Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have had and continue to have on America. It is a time of celebration of the cultural richness and diversity within the community. And more importantly, it serves to help hold onto our roots and to not lose our history. 


4.  What's one aspect of your heritage that you feel very strongly about?

Chinese food has one of the most diverse culinary heritages in the world. Chinese cuisine is not just sustenance; family and food are unequivocally connected in the Chinese culture. Food is how we show our love; it's made together as a family, recipes are passed down through the generations from grandparents to parents to us, and celebrations are always over a grand banquet. There is a reason why Chinese food is always served family-styled and we literally greet each other with “have you eaten yet?”


5.  What Asian or Pacific Islander public figure, past or present, inspires you and why?

As an Asian American and growing up in Hawaii, you never forget the sacrifice and heroism of the soldiers of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during WWII. In an era of systemic racism and Anti-Asian sentiment with legislations like the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and Executive Order 9066 authorizing removal of Japanese American citizens into internment camps, Japanese Americans voluntarily joined to fight for their country. This all-volunteer force would later become the most decorated military unit of its size and length of service earning 18,000 individual awards including 21 Medal of Honor recipients, 5000 Purple Hearts, 33 Distinguished Service Crosses, 560 Silver Stars, 22 Legion of Merit Awards, and over 4000 Bronze Stars. For me, what is even more impressive than these decorations is the fact that these men fought so courageously for their country abroad, despite being fully aware of the indefensible injustices casted on their families, friends, and neighbors back home.