Leading in service through passion in culture

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Magen M. Reeves
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Staff Sgt. Tyneshia Uscanga, 601st Air Operations Center joint interface control cell track data coordinator, celebrates her family’s connected past and cultural awareness through her actions and dedication to her profession.

Uscanga comes from an Afro-Latina heritage, meaning Latin with African decent, and has looked up to her maternal grandmother who immigrated from San Blas, Panama, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, when she was very young. While no longer in Panama, her grandmother passed down the traditions of her culture to the family, including dress styles and customs. The family grew their roots under their grandmother who served as the matriarch of the family.

“She paved the way for my family,” said Uscanga. “Everything started with her coming here and she was a very strong woman that worked in factories [and as a seamstress], learned the [English] language and taught me Spanish… I am one of the grandchildren that can read, write, and speak fluently.”

Uscanga’s life led her to Norfolk, Virginia, where she claims home. Her father retired from the U.S. Navy and her mother also served for 11 years. As an adult, Uscanga attended Norfolk State University. She enlisted in the Air Force in 2016 as active duty and transitioned to the Active Guard Reserve Program in 2020. Uscanga said that joining the military made her grandmother, father and mother very proud.

“A lot of times in other countries, and sometimes even here in the States, a serving [service] member is looked at, or classified as, a male,” said Uscanga. “Women serving, women of color serving, women of different ethnic backgrounds serving… that’s very powerful.”

Not only did she follow in her parent’s footsteps, she accomplished something that is seen as exceptional in her culture.

“Traditionally in our culture, most women don't really have to work, and this is not for all women because we do have working women, but most will stay home with the children to care for the home,” said Uscanga. “It's definitely a proud and glowing moment when you have a woman that's able balance both worlds; that's able to take care of the home, the children [because I have two children] and also work… and continue to be the strength and backbone for my family.”

Each year, the Department of Defense celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. This years’ theme is “Unidos, inclusivity for a stronger nation.” Unidos, a word rooted in Hispanic culture means united, connected and close. This concept speaks to Uscanga and her experience in serving in the world’s greatest Air Force.

“We all look different and speak different dialects, but we come together to support each other and make the [Air Force] what it is today,” said Uscanga.

Managing diversity and fostering inclusion at the unit level allows the mission to keep moving forward as effectively as possible.

“A lot of people…don't really understand a person’s culture nor traditions… or why they do things the way they do,” said Uscanga. “Educating allows for understanding from either side of whichever culture you come from. When you understand why someone is way… then you get that mutual understanding. It makes for a healthier work environment.”