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Building a well-travelled perspective: Black History Month spotlight

.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Raymond Sinclair-West, 97th Medical Operations Squadron superintendent, prepares to talk about his heritage and Black History Month

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Raymond Sinclair-West, 97th Medical Operations Squadron superintendent, prepares to talk about his heritage and Black History Month, Feb. 19, 2019, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. He is personally tasked with guiding and mentoring Airmen to make sure the mission is accomplished. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cody Dowell)

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Heritage has always been an essential part of this nation’s Air Force. To the service members and to the service itself, the past helped make them what they are today.

Black History month is a significant example of heritage, important for U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Raymond Sinclair-West, 97th Medical Operations Squadron superintendent. He said it makes him think not only about his own past, but also the people who moved things forward and truly shaped the world.

Sinclair-West was born and raised in his early years in England. When he was nine, his family immigrated to the United States. His mother wanted the best life for her children and already having family in New York seemed like the best option for her family.

“While I was in England I was always exploring,” said Sinclair-West. “That exploration helped me realize that there’s a bigger world out there; everybody thinks and talks differently and I wanted to continue that. Even coming to America, I knew I wanted to keep exploring.”

After a semester of college in America, Sinclair-West felt he still needed to see the world.

“My cousin was in the Air Force and he played a big role of my initial understanding the military,” said Sinclair-West. “Since then, I’ve been to Germany, France and England again. None of that would have been possible if I had never joined the Air Force.”

Every job in the Air Force has a role to play in accomplishing the bigger mission. For Sinclair-West a good reminder how anyone can better the mission is U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia’s 5th congressional district.

“During the civil rights movement, John Lewis was the youngest person to speak during the March on Washington,” said Sinclair-West. “That’s where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his ‘I have a dream’ speech. It should show our younger Airmen that it doesn’t matter what rank or age you are and that you can make a difference. I’ve been working with Airmen of all different backgrounds and ages all my life. It didn’t matter who I worked with because they all knew we had to get the mission done.”

Traveling around the globe gave Sinclair-West the opportunity to see towns of all shapes and sizes. This gave him the ability to see people from several locations and backgrounds. Altus AFB has helped add to his perspective of inclusiveness.

“I’ve never really been in a location like Altus,” said Sinclair-West. “I find it is easier to see people for who they are in smaller towns. Being able to see people more often and having time to get to know them makes the whole community a lot closer.”

Sinclair-West is the superintendent of the 97th MDOS, tasked with the first-class medical care of active duty members, family and veterans. He is charged with guiding and mentoring Airmen to ensure members are healthy so the mission is accomplished.

“We are a small base, but we still have people that need care here,” said Sinclair-West. “We are the primary care clinic for the permanent party and training members. Without us, the strains and pains become a lot more serious and then we have Airmen out of the mission.”

It takes a team of people from different backgrounds and skill sets to make up any unit at the Mighty 97th. At the end of the day, these Airmen are able to ensure the health and wellness of every student, permanent party member and their families to make sure the mission continues.