Something special began
July 19, 1941. For the first time in the history of military
aviation, blacks were given an opportunity to prove themselves in
The first black aviators began their flight training at Tuskegee
Army Air Field, Ala., and went to the famed 99th Fighter
The Tuskegee Airmen had to fight not only the Nazis, but the
prejudices within their own military. Despite being allowed to fly,
military aviation units were segregated by race.
Today, the heirs of their legacy take to the skies above
Captains Glenn Gonzales (pictured) and Alex Edwards are two
black officers who fly F-15 Eagles in the 71st Fighter Squadron.
While neither joined the Air Force because of the Tuskegee Airmen,
they both agree hearing about the Tuskegee Airmen encouraged them
to pursue their goals as pilots.
“I had an idea of who they were,” Captain Gonzales
said. “But not to the extent of their
He said it was his training at the Air Force Academy that first
opened his eyes to their impact.
“One of the quotes we had to learn was in regards to the
Tuskegee Airmen,” he said.
“To be honest, it
seemed that these guys were just like all of us. They were Airmen
like the rest of us.”
Captain Edwards first learned about the Tuskegee Airmen from the
1995 HBO movie, “The Tuskegee Airmen.”
“I thought it was a cool and inspiring story,” he
said. “The more I learned about it, the more I knew that
(flying) was what I wanted to do.”
By that time, he already knew he was going to fly. It was just a
matter of how. His high school classmates just thought he was
“There weren’t a lot of black people doing
it,” he said. “They’d think, ‘I’d
never seen a black pilot before, so I don’t think I’m
going to see one now.’”
While racism still exists in 21st century America, Captains
Edwards and Gonzales said that today’s Air Force welcomed
“The Tuskegee Airmen’s experience was totally
different,” Captain Edwards said.
Both men said they’ve tried to live up to their legacy.
“I recruited for awhile,” Captain Edwards said.
“I tried to get more African-Americans into the Air Force. I
think some thought it was unattainable, but you don’t know
what’s going to be hard until you try.”
“I want to be the best officer, best pilot, best Airman I
can,” Captain Gonzales said. “Where ever that takes me,
that’s where I’ll go.”
Captain Gonzales said the Tuskegee legacy was one that can be
embraced by all Airmen.
“They were just like me and just like you. These guys were
warfighters for our nation. They did their job, not with the intent
to make a name for black aviators, but to be fighters for their
country,” Captain Gonzales said.
“Their story shouldn’t be reserved just for
February. Their story should be celebrated throughout the
year,” he said. [ANN Salutes Staff Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher,
1st Fighter Wing Public Affairs]