JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- During February 2021, more than 250 Total Force Airmen participated in a series of aviation events honoring Black History Month’s heritage. The event was titled, “Accelerating the Legacy—Honor the Past, Develop the Present, and Promote the Future” and crossed 16 installations and featured a series of collaborative events.
First events across 12 bases
The first event occurred Feb. 19-21 and included participants from 12 bases, aircraft and crews, who gathered at Joint-Base Charleston, S.C., to take part in professional development and outreach activities.
"We all had a desire to increase the quality of mentorship and development we receive as Air Force aviators and leaders," said Capt. Nic Young, C-17 pilot and planner of events. "The chief of staff of the Air Force continuously highlights the importance of empowered Airmen and we took this to heart and created these events."
"We had over 75 Airmen, both officers and enlisted, fly in to attend this event, where they had the opportunity to discuss their challenges and successes as minority Airmen," said Col. Jaron Roux, 437th Airlift Wing commander. "The Tuskegee Airmen were incredible warfighters and Americans—we must be the same."
Over the course of the two weeks, Airmen engaged with U.S. Air Force Academy and U.S. Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets from 23 schools, many of them from historically black colleges and universities.
"There is a need for greater inclusion and equity in the Air Force, not just diversity," said Maj. Saj El-Amin, C-37 executive airlift pilot and organizer for the event. "Representation is a critical element of feeling like you're a part of the team and we held this event to demonstrate to ourselves and others the value of our contributions."
“We provided information about Air Force careers to more than 200 youth and influencers at eight different locations, as part of our external focus,” said Maj. Dean Hall, T-38C pilot at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas and lead organizer for events, during the Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia, event Feb. 26-28.
A key feature during the events of Feb. 26-28 was a GO Inspire event held at Alabama's Air National Guard unit, 187th Fighter Wing at Dannelly Field in Montgomery, Ala. Brig. Gen. Christopher Walker, special assistant to the ANG’s director of diversity and inclusion, was the role model and mentor for this program, designed to inspire young Americans for military service.
"Our core values of integrity, service, and excellence were exemplified by the Tuskegee Airmen and demonstrate the power of diversity,” Walker said. “We want you to join our team so that your unique skills and talents can help make the Air Force a more lethal and effective fighting force." Walker was assigned to the 100th Fighter Squadron, one of the original squadrons from the "Tuskegee Experiment."
Tony Haygood, Mayor of Tuskegee, Ala., participated in the events at Moton Field--the original training location of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.
“The Tuskegee Airmen represent what’s great about America and were heroes in the Air Force,” said Haygood. “We look forward to continuing to partner with the Air Force to promote their legacy.”
Pilots from JBSA-Randolph, Laughlin AFB, Texas, and Vance AFB, Okla., visited locations in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee during their outreach efforts.
“I never realized how much you can change somebody’s life by just showing them what’s possible,” said 1st Lt. Courtland White, T-6 first assignment instructor pilot at Vance AFB.
In Memphis, Tennessee, pilots visited the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) where they met Staff Sgt. Leon Bussey, who was recently selected to attend undergraduate pilot training (UPT) to fly the C-17 Globemaster III in the Air National Guard.
“This was an amazing opportunity to talk with current UPT students and instructors,” he said. “I feel much more prepared and ready to excel during the challenges of UPT.”
First Lt. Elliott Knowles, another T-6 FAIP from Laughlin AFB added, “It was great to show people a part of what could be their future. Inspiring the next generation is important and I think we did that pretty well this weekend.”