Author: Cadet LTC Tiara Thomas
Editor: LTC (Ret) Terri N. Webb
Cadets from William H. Spencer High School participated in a Cadet Staff Ride to visit the Tuskegee Airman Museum in Tuskegee Alabama. It was an academic experience that required all participants to conduct research and present a briefing on key figures, training, aircraft, units, and deployments during different periods of service for the Tuskegee Airman. Following Cadet presentations, the group conducted a guided tour of the museum that incorporated videos with visual testimonies, interactive guide, and displays. Highlights included the crucial steps many African American Officers took to obtain social equality in the Army Air Corps and eventually the Air Force. Important figures such as General Benjamin O. Davis Sr., General Benjamin O. Davis Jr., General Daniel “Chappie” James, and Brigadier General Charles McGee proved to the world that African American Service Members were the same as, or even better than their Caucasian colleagues at air navigation and tactical air warfare. The Cadets also learned that the Tuskegee Airmen completed training and deployments under harsh conditions and faced racial discrimination, segregation, and limited opportunities for advancement through the ranks. Officer testimonies noted that 75 years after slavery was abolished, racial discrimination was very prominent in the United States. As a result, the Tuskegee Airmen had to prove themselves constantly during their selection for candidacy, training, and deployments during campaigns in World War II. If African American Officers committed one infraction or displayed any lack of professionalism, they would have been deemed incapable of having the intelligence, physical strength, and discipline to fly military aircraft and fight in the nation’s wars.
Cadets were able to experience the mechanical functions of the aircraft (e.g. Stearman PT-17 and Mustang) employed by the Tuskegee Airmen through simulation devices and touch real artifacts like parachutes, standard issue supplies, and uniforms. Other interesting highlights included the displays covering the history of African American women that were hired to support Tuskegee Airmen training as mechanics, parachute riggers, and other support staff. AA women like Army Sergeant Amelia Jones served during World War II in the 99th Pursuit Squadron under Colonel Benjamin O. Davis. The Cadets were able to capture some lessons learned from the tour contribute to their personal development as leaders. They learned that leaders should always set the bar high for themselves, never give up in the sight of unfair challenges or obstacles, and recognize the importance of diversity and inclusion as a component for social progress. Thus, supporting the Army JROTC Mission – “Motivating Young People to be Better Citizens”.
Top Photo: Cadets and Army Instructors stand in front of PT-17 Stearman trainer aircraft. From LEFT to RIGHT: 1SG (Ret) Karen George; 1SG(Ret) Walter Mitchell; Cadet(s): TyKia Alexander; Ziyana West; Maua Puailoa; Elvin Rodriguez-Ortiz; Tiara Thomas; Brandon Lee; Orlando Rodriguez-Ortiz; Emmanuel Thornton; Hannah Hancock; Senior Army Instructor: LTC (Ret) Terri Webb photo taken by: National Park Service Ranger (name unknown)