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Black History Month: Highlighting those who serve - 1

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Grossi
  • 910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Each February, the nation takes 28 days to reflect on the challenges, achievements and crucial roles of African Americans in U.S. history. This month is Black History Month. The occasion was first recognized in 1976 by Gerald Ford, who considered it an, “opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history,” and has been adopted by each president ever since. In celebration of Black History Month, Youngstown Air Reserve Station is proud to highlight the diverse Reserve Citizen Airmen who provide their own experiences, perspectives and skillsets while serving the U.S. at Youngstown Air Reserve Station.

Senior Airman Manaria Coats, a cyber systems operations technician with the 910th Communications Squadron, has served as a Reserve Citizen Airman for more than two years. Several of her family members served in the Armed Forces, inspiring her to enlist. Manaria remembers her grandfather telling her and her sisters stories about his tours in Italy.

“My family inspired me the most, because they believed that no matter what I put my mind to I could achieve,” said Coats. “I was working at Subway before I decided to enlist, and with help and support from them, I was able to get through everything (Basic Military Training) and tech school threw my way. Without (their support), I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Although basic training is a small portion of an Airman’s military career, it is a challenging time that tends to leave lifelong impressions and memories. As such, Manaria’s most memorable moment comes from her sixth week of BMT. It was the day of her flight’s final physical training test and the end of course examination, a written evaluation of an Airman’s education and training at BMT, which is concentrated on war skills and military studies. She recalls standing at the door of their dorm and seeing the faces of her fellow trainees. Recognizing they were all about to face one of the biggest hurdles in their training thus far, she took a moment to speak to her flight to pep them up and reassure them that each and every one was ready for the task they faced.

“I will always remember Flight B492 as ‘Clutch Time,’" said Coats. “After personally giving what felt like the most inspirational speech ever given, we all passed both our PT and EOC (end of course exam). It felt like something out of a movie, and it especially felt great to know that I made a difference enough and mattered enough for them to take my words as motivation.”

Manaria shows that leadership can come out anywhere, from the final moments before a test to the frontlines, leadership is a choice a person makes for the benefit of the people who surround them. Manaria continues to use her voice to inspire others.

“Black History Month is important to me because it allows for a more public highlight of black voices," said Coats. "I rarely saw people who looked like I did while growing up, so my mother always made it a point to educate my siblings and me about our heritage. I lived in a predominately white neighborhood, and my school only had a handful of African American students. I was always picked on or talked about for my ‘blackness.’ It took me a long time to be comfortable in my own skin. I was always told, ‘You are a black woman, and that means you have to work twice as hard to be considered half as good.’ I always replay that quote in my head on a daily basis and live by it. That is why I had always looked forward to Black History Month, because it seemed like the only time I could feel normal and accepted. It’s important to know that no matter the circumstances, your voice and representation matters, and Black History Month does exactly that and more.”