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Reservists connect with the past at Tuskegee Airmen gathering

OMAHA, Neb. -- Behind each successful event are the efforts of a work force blending into a seamless process of teamwork, professional presentation and event coordination. The 33rd annual convention of the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. Aug 4-8 in Omaha, Neb., exemplified these attributes and more.

“From the opening ceremony to the awards banquet to the forums on military subject matters, coordination between civilians, active-duty members, Reservists, Guardsmen and veterans ensured the success of this convention” said Brig. Gen. Leon A. Johnson, TAI second vice president. General Johnson also serves as chairman of Air Force Reserve Command’s Human Resources Development Council. “The support we received from Offutt Air Force Base (Neb.) and the Air Force Reserve Command was tremendous. The dedication of the new dormitory at Offutt to the Tuskegee Airmen was a special event that will long be remembered by the veterans and spouses of the Tuskegee experience.”

The second day of the convention was dedicated to youth involvement and mentorship. Various youth organizations from the Omaha metro area were introduced to the Tuskegee experience through talks by the Tuskegee World War II veterans and military volunteers who shared their experiences in the Army Air Corps and Air Force.

“I enjoy sharing my Tuskegee experience with young people,” said Richard Macon of Detroit, Mich., an original Tuskegee Airmen pilot and prisoner of war during World War II. “I am humbled by the fact that I can share my experiences and make young people aware that they can achieve no matter what their situation is if they are willing to work.”

Mr. Macon, 83, is a retired math teacher who has 37 years of experience teaching at the college and high school levels.

The highlight of youth day included a luncheon with many of the original Tuskegee Airmen during which Air Force members from active duty, the Air Force Reserve and the Air National Guard, along with members of other services, mixed in with youth ranging in age from 5 to 16.

Recruiters from the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, Air Force Academy, Army and Navy also took advantage of the opportunity to interact with youth touring the Tuskegee Airmen exhibition hall and job fair at the Qwest Convention Center.

“This is an excellent opportunity to contact and inform our youth on what the military has to offer in terms of education and careers,” said Master Sgt. Sparkle K. Adams, 94th Mission Support Group career adviser and co-chair of the 94th Airlift Wing’s Human Resources Development Council at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga. “The combination of Air Force history and the benefits and entitlements the Air Force and other military services have to offer today is a positive influence on youth to consider the military as a viable option.”

The third day of the convention was dedicated to the military. The highlights of the day were a luncheon attended by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper and Lt. Gen. John A. Bradley, AFRC commander, and a forum headed by Army and Air Force general officers and a Navy rear admiral.

General Jumper was the keynote speaker during the military luncheon.

“The ‘Heroes All, Share the Legacy’ theme is appropriate as we bring to mind the history and traditions of our Tuskegee heroes,” he said. “These are the Airmen who’ve forged change throughout the military. ... thank you for all you’ve done for this nation.”
In addition to the luncheon, TAI members were the honored guests at Offutt AFB during the Tuskegee Airmen dormitory dedication ceremony. The ceremony was attended by veteran organizations, media and civilian guests as well as military members stationed at Offutt.

“This is the second opportunity I’ve had to enjoy an official military dedication to the Tuskegee name,” said Val Archer, a Tuskegee Airman who served as an aircraft flight instrument specialist during World War II. “The first dedication I attended was for a street named for the Tuskegee Airmen at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Georgia.

“My overall impression of the military involvement with the TAI convention this year is that they are well organized and present a very professional image,” said Mr. Archer, who serves as president of the Atlanta chapter. “It’s dramatic for me that there is an integration of various ethnic groups that were not present in the old Army Air Corps. This is especially impressive to those of us responsible for integrating the armed services from 1948 through the 1960s.”

The military forums continued into the fourth day of the convention with various panel discussions chaired by senior enlisted personnel and senior officers.

Simultaneous with the convention, members of the AFRC Human Resources Development Council conducted a two-day meeting in support of an upcoming workshop. The meeting provided the opportunity for Reservists to interact with active-duty members as well as Tuskegee Airmen.

“The Tuskegee Airmen conference is a great opportunity to tell the Air Force story and provide an outreach to all military personnel in terms of accomplishments in military history, diversity, opportunity and personal growth,” said Master Sgt. Rodney Hage, Headquarters AFRC superintendent of human resources development.

“The opportunity to share the history of those men and women who were part of the Tuskegee experience is not available in any other venue,” Sergeant Hage said. “The challenges they faced and how they overcame those obstacles are part of our Air Force heritage. We must remember the past to avoid repeating our mistakes.”

(Sergeant Coleman is assigned to the 94th Airlift Wing public affairs office at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga.)

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