MacDill AFB celebrates Native Americans

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Zachary Foster
  • 6th Air Refueling Wing, Public Affairs

The 6th Air Refueling Wing hosted a Native American Heritage Month celebration and luncheon at the installation’s chapel Nov. 14, 2023.

Leading the event was Master Sgt. Zachary Pletcher, 6th Logistics Readiness Squadron petroleum, oils and lubricants flight fuels operations section chief.

“Today we’re doing more than just celebrating the contributions of Native Americans in the military,” Pletcher said. “This year we tried to branch out to off-base volunteers to strengthen our relationships with the community.”

One partnership featured during the celebration was the Tampa Bay Historical Society. Volunteers in attendance led a presentation on the historic role of Native American culture in military operations.

Retired Col. Clete Belsom, a TBHS docent, served as the event’s keynote speaker, explaining his role within the Tampa Bay community and introduced Richard Sanchez, a fellow TBHS volunteer.

During Sanchez’s presentation, he focused on the role the Native American language played in the First and Second World Wars, noting the value unwritten communication had in the success of countless military operations.

“A key factor in deciding to use Native American language is it’s never written down,” Sanchez said. “Navajo speakers were used to transmit messages during combat over radio and served as a quick and effective way to encrypt communication in time-sensitive situations.”

Following the presentation, guests were invited to enjoy traditional Native American cuisine including frybread, corn mush, beef and vegetable soup, and Navajo tea.

The event wrapped up with an immersive performance by multiple traditional Native American dance groups from across the country.

“I appreciate everyone that came in support today,” Pletcher said. “It was great to see so many community volunteers and military personnel connect with such a unique and historic culture.”

Events like this serve in support of the 6th ARW’s commitment to celebrating the heritage of all service members, DoD civilians and dependents living and working on the installation.