ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
Grass on a front lawn, light poles on a street, snow in the winter and water from a drinking fountain; these are all common things found in the United States. For individuals from different countries, these things can be a complete culture shock.
This was the case for Airman 1st Class Xander Broe Blanquisco, 97th Logistics Readiness Squadron air freight specialist, when he first arrived in the country. He was born in Muntinlupa City, Philippines, and lived in Manila and Bicol, Philippines, until he was about 11 years old. When Blanquisco came to the USA, he moved to Kentucky with his mom and aunts to live with his grandma before moving to Utah six months after to live with his aunt. Six years later they moved to Ohio, where at the age of 18, he joined the Air Force.
“I lived in the Philippines with two of my aunts, with their families and my mom. While there, we were in a home that was next to the other buildings,” said Blanquisco. “When I arrived at my grandma’s house, I was amazed that she not only had a front lawn, but a back one as well. Seeing grass everywhere was a strange sight. When I was in the Philippines, I was used to tropical weather all year round. It was usually 90 or 100 degrees outside and it would just rain a lot, so I was not used to the cold at all. Luckily, during the first year I was in the country, I was able to see snow; it was a real dream come true.”
Another oddity Blanquisco faced when coming to the nation was having technology everywhere, like light poles and drinking fountains. Blanquisco explained the entire area he grew up in had only one light pole. The community had to rely on other types of light sources at night. Even drinking water wasn’t readily available. His family had to use buckets to transport water around. While he was growing up, he was responsible for helping his family grow their own plants, trees and raise animals for their own sake, not to sell. Despite these things being strange to him, Blanquisco recognized the heritage to the country that many in his family shared.
“For some unknown reason, all my uncles started joining the military. All of them were joining the Army, Navy, and Marines, and it got me thinking about it,” said Blanquisco. “Since my family already picked all the other branches, and people say the Air Force is for smart people, I decided to go in this direction. Coming to the country has changed my life and this is my way of giving back.”
Originally, Blanquisco joined the Air Force with the goal of becoming a dental assistant but ended up going into air operations instead. Blanquisco said his positive experience in the service is why he chooses to stay in, as well as to meet his goal of earning a medical degree.
When asked for his initial thoughts about joining the Air Force, Blanquisco said he feared there would be a divide between himself and others but was pleased to find that he always felt accepted by those around him. It was this diversity, Blaquisco said, that makes the Air Force the powerful institution it is today.
“Being diverse is the culture of the Air Force. Right when I joined, everyone was so accepting of each other no matter what,” he said. “It’s a tradition, in a way, to accept one another and that feeling to me is like a foundation of this service. It is normal that everyone is different because it is what makes everyone similar to each other.”