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A Checkertail Airman’s Juneteenth mission

An Airman poses next to a flag

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ella Sims, 325th Maintenance Squadron maintenance supervisor, poses for a photo at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, June 16, 2021. Sims aims to inspire black youth by proudly wearing the uniform and informing them of new opportunities such as the joining Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Anabel Del Valle)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

A Checkertail Airman’s efforts to bring awareness to Juneteenth led to Team Tyndall members participating in a Juneteenth Celebration festival, June 19, in Panama City, Florida.

Juneteenth is a celebration of the emancipation of those who were once legally enslaved for generations in the United States. At the head of Tyndall’s involvement in the celebration is Staff Sgt. Ella Sims, president of the Tyndall Black Heritage Committee.

“We have come a long way and it is very important this holiday is acknowledged,” said Staff Sgt. Ella Sims, 325th Maintenance Squadron maintenance supervisor. “A lot of times, people don’t understand that while the United States gained independence in 1776, my ancestors weren’t free until almost a hundred years later.”

Juneteenth has gained nationwide recognition after starting off as a state holiday in Texas and is now a federal holiday. Members of the 325th Fighter Wing enjoyed the Juneteenth Celebration festivities, due to Sims’ coordination with Minority Panama City, a resource hub for people of color in the local community.

As the maintenance supervisor, her main focus is to inspect, repair and maintain the F-22 Raptor’s weapons systems and other weapons loading components. Although her primary mission is to support the projection of unrivaled combat airpower, her personal mission is to inspire.

 “I want to be an inspiration to black youth,” said Sims. “I want to show them they can do anything no matter what their race or gender is. Having the privilege to wear this uniform gives me confidence so I can motivate others to pursue a similar path.”

It was never in Sims’ plans to join the Air Force, but she says the decision changed her life for the best as she realized she could influence others who do not realize the Air Force is an option.

“The Air Force has allowed me to grow in many ways,” explained Sims. “I just bought a house. I’m active in the community, and I sing in a band.”

Now that Juneteenth is being recognized nationwide, Sims is sure that it will affect Tyndall for the better.

“Juneteenth contributes to our mission here at Tyndall directly,” said Sims. “If we want to be a more inclusive and diverse Air Force, we cannot pick and choose which holidays we honor. Tyndall celebrating Juneteenth shows that we are striving to raise base awareness by highlighting and celebrating black heritage.”