Commentary: Pacific culture, heritage festival impacts service members in Hawaii

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Alicia Shealey
  • Pacific Air Forces
I was greatly honored to be designated as the Pacific Air Forces Action Officer for the 13th Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture (FestPAC), the world’s largest celebration of indigenous Pacific Islanders.

In my role, I was able to work with teams of service members who provided crucial logistical support, security, safety, cultural exchange, and community outreach. Our efforts included the coordination of venues and equipment setup, and security throughout the festival to ensure the safety of delegates, distinguished participants, and attendees.

This year, FestPAC’s theme "Ho‘oulu Lāhui: Regenerating Oceania" resonates deeply with me as I witnessed firsthand the transformative power of cultural exchange. From the performances, art exhibitions, and cultural exchanges that showcased the beauty and diversity of the Pacific region, all attendees were able to step into a world where every dance move, every song, every artwork tells a story of resilience, identity, and unity.

It's about honoring our past while embracing the future, ensuring that traditions continue to thrive for generations to come. Understanding and honoring traditions are integral to our mission in the Pacific. It serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of preserving our heritage amidst the winds of change.

Volunteering for this monumental event meant more than just lending a helping hand; it was about actively contributing to the preservation and promotion of Pacific Island heritage. Working behind the scenes, I witnessed the dedication and passion of everyone involved in bringing this cultural extravaganza to life.

Whether it was setting up stages, assisting artists, guiding visitors through exhibitions, or assisting with parking - every task was infused with a sense of pride and commitment to showcasing the best of the Pacific region.

I had the privilege of immersing myself in the rich tapestry of Pacific Island cultures. It was awesome to witness and welcome voyages from Tahiti, whom were on sea for 23 long days to attend FestPAC. I learned traditional dances, sampled indigenous cuisines, and engaged in meaningful conversations with artists and performers participating from across the Pacific. It was a profound journey of discovery and connection, bridging gaps and forging friendships that transcended borders.

Embracing the traditions and customs of the Pacific is fundamental to PACAF’s mission. By embracing and respecting the cultural diversity of the region, we not only bolster our operational capabilities but also demonstrate our dedication to fostering relationships with our Allies and partners.

Our engagements with Pacific communities are more than strategic partnerships; they underscore our shared appreciation for tradition and heritage. By upholding the significance of tradition and culture, we reinforce our bonds with our partners and amplify our role in advancing security and prosperity throughout the Pacific.

Through my volunteer work, I've come to appreciate the unique and diverse cultures of the Pacific, recognizing them as some of the most vibrant in the world. This experience has not only enriched my own understanding but has also strengthened the bonds between our communities, paving the way for continued collaboration and partnership.