Fort Belvoir, Va. (June 5, 2014) - Servicemembers, Department of Defense Civilians and members of the Garrison Command team celebrated, and learned different aspects of, Asian American culture during the Fort Belvoir Equal Opportunity Office's Asian-Pacific American observance at the Community Center, Thursday.

Soldiers and civilians enjoyed a demonstration by Filipino Martial Arts Hall of Famer, Kibo Kim, a performance of Frank Sinatra's hit "Cheek to Cheek" and Nora Jones classic "Don't know why" by 2013 Asian American Rising Star Winner, Cara Kim, and a dance performance by Through the Islands of the Pacific. Each performance aimed to increase the audiences' awareness of Asian American culture.

"It's important because our Army is diverse," said Sgt. 1st class Ebonie Washington, Fort Belvoir Equal Opportunity Office, Equal Opportunity advisor. "You need to know about your (battle buddy's) culture so we can come together to strengthen our Army."

Kibo Kim demonstrated self-defense and take-down techniques for knife, sword and empty hand fighting. He wore an Eskrima uniform and used Kampilan swords. Eskrima is an umbrella term for the traditional martial arts of the Philippines that emphasize weapon-based fighting with sticks, knives and other bladed weapons. Kibo enjoys sharing the culture of Filipino Martial Arts.

"I like to show the uniforms and the swords I was using," said Kibo. "The clothes and weapon are made differently to represent the Central and Southern Philippines."

Through the Islands of the Pacific, led by 1st Lt. Cezarina J. Viqueria, C Company, 249th Engineer Battalion, executive officer, performed five dances; the Kawika, Sau Sau Wale, Poi Balls, Pandanggo Sa Ilaw, and Tinikling. Tinikling is the national dance of the Philippines, and involves dancing over and inside two bamboo poles as they are rhythmically tapped on the floor and then together.

Sharing a part of her culture, plus performing in front of an audience is why Viqueria decided to perform at the observance.

"I like performing and doing cultural dances," said Viqueria. "There's a lot of skill involved, and it's just something I really enjoy."

Learning about a new culture was fun for Capt. Brian Gibson, 2nd Battalion, 1st Information Operations Command, assistant team lead. Gibson enjoyed watching the performances instead of sitting through a lecture.

"I like how the different dances are incorporated into the observance," said Gibson. "You had the Hawaiian dances, the New Zealand, Filipino and Samoan. I also think it is interesting that the marital artist is a Korean-American, but he's embraced the Filipino martial arts forms. I think that reflects the spirit of the event."

The observance was a bit of a refresher for Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Norris, 249th Eng. Bn., power station sergeant. Norris learned about Asian-American dances and fighting techniques while stationed in Korea. However, he was still learning during Kibo's demonstration.

"It was interesting that some of the moves he was doing are dance moves, but he's controlling the fight that way," said Norris. "He also demonstrated different body techniques and ways to kill people I was not previously aware of."

Learning the view points of another culture and how those thoughts might help you improve individually are one reason it's important to organize cultural observances, according to Norris.

"If you only focus on your culture, you aren't going to do well in life," he said. "We have a melting pot of knowledge and view points; you can't look at the same problems one way. There are different vantage points that each culture brings, so you can expand your ideas and see which one works best."

Bonding among servicemembers takes place faster if they understand each other's background more, said Washington.

"It will help you understand your leadership as far as why they act the way they act, it helps leaders understand the junior enlisted Soldiers more," said Washington. "It helps the mission. If we can understand where we come from, you can understand how to get the mission completed."