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Native American Airman proud of roots

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- For the past 18 years, the military has observed November as a time to reflect and acknowledge the efforts and accomplishments given to national defense by Native Americans.

Senior Airman David Whiting, 28th Medical Support Squadron diagnostic imaging technician, is a Native American who grew-up on the Rosebud Indian Reservation, S.D. His mother and father are both Sicangu Sioux descendents.

In 2005 he decided to join the Air Force, motivated primarily by a desire to see the world.

"I really wanted to travel," Airman Whiting said. "I was already in college and working toward a degree in business, but I really wanted the opportunity to explore life outside of the reservation."

During basic military training, Airman Whiting quickly adapted to Air Force life.

"I found basic training fairly easy; I was already in shape, and the commands were easy to follow because they tell you exactly what to do," he said.

After BMT, Airman Whiting began his two-year technical school training as a radiology technician, where he learned to use X-rays and scans to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of patients.

"He's terrific -- definitely one of the better technicians I've ever supervised," said Master Sgt. Darren Jackson, 28 MSS Diagnostic Imaging Flight NCO in charge. "Patients always compliment him on how compassionate he is, especially toward kids who are afraid of receiving X-rays."

Since joining the Air Force, Airman Whiting has also dedicated himself to demanding tasks outside his career field. He just finished a four-month voluntary deployment at Ali Air Base, Iraq, where he performed Third Country National duty, supervising contracted workers.

Immediately after returning from his deployment in September, he volunteered for 28th Security Forces Squadron augmentee duty.

His willingness to volunteer made him more than eligible for the 28th Medical Group quarterly award he received in October, Sergeant Jackson said.

Though Ellsworth is not quite the distance he desired to travel from his hometown, he is happy to be stationed here. The proximity to his childhood reservation has allowed him to be close to his family and remain an active member in Rosebud Indian Reservation's tribal council.

"My younger brother, who's in the Army, and I are often invited back home by the tribal council to speak at schools and meetings," Airman Whiting said. "I always recommend people to join the military and tell them about all the great opportunities the military can give them."

The opportunities the Air Force has provided Airman Whiting have also allowed him many unique experiences. He's traveled to places he's never been, such as Southwest Asia, continued his college education with tuition assistance and attained a medical job he thoroughly enjoys.

Airman Whiting's future plans involve finishing his college degree in physical training at Devry University, but plans on remaining in the Air Force; he recently reenlisted, adding six more years to his contract.

"I'm in it for the long haul," Airman Whiting said, "The Air Force has taught me things I would have never known if I hadn't joined," Airman Whiting said. "It's made me a person I never knew I could be, and allowed me to keep in close contact with my family and my Native American roots."