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Black history AWACS flight honors Tuskegee Airmen

Black History flight crew

An all-Black aircrew from the 552nd Air Control Wing at Tinker Air Force Base participated in an E-3 Airborne Warning and Control Systems sortie on March 4 to celebrate Black history and to honor the history of Black military aviators. The all-Black crew included mission support, maintenance, mission crew and flight deck personnel.

Photo of Black history flight crew, commander and members of the Tuskegee Airmen Chapter.

An all-Black aircrew from the 552nd Air Control Wing at Tinker Air Force Base participated in an E-3 Airborne Warning and Control Systems sortie on March 4 to celebrate Black history and to honor the history of Black military aviators. The all-Black crew included mission support, maintenance, mission crew and flight deck personnel.

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --

Members of the 552nd Air Control Wing made history of their own March 4 as they honored the heritage of black aviators.

An all-Black aircrew participated in an E-3 Airborne Warning and Control Systems sortie.

The flight was originally scheduled for February as part of the celebration of Black History Month, but was rescheduled due to severe winter weather.

“This sortie pays homage to our Air Force history honoring Tuskegee Airmen and to celebrate diversity in the greatest Air Force in the world,” said Col. Alain Poisson, commander of the 552nd ACW.

“We decided the severe weather storm would not stop this event,” said Col. Paul Filcek, installation commander. “And how appropriate to do it in early March instead, which just further illustrates that we should be appreciating and celebrating diversity every month of every year.”

The all-Black crew included mission support, maintenance, mission crew and flight deck, and they were all celebrated in a ceremony prior to the flight.

 “Much like you, the Tuskegee Airmen had a deep desire to defend their country by taking to the skies,” said Poisson. Today as you fly, fight and win, be proud of yourselves for following in their footsteps and volunteering to go into harm’s way to defend our nation.

“While this sortie is a normal part of our day, let’s use it to remember our Tuskegee Airmen heroes. Let’s use it to show the world in America, diversity is our strength. Most importantly, let’s use it to inspire the next generation of American Airmen to follow in your footsteps!”

Major Glen Jasper, Commander of the 552nd Maintenance Operations Flight, spearheaded the planning and execution of the event staring in October 2020 as an idea among Black Airmen across the Air Force to fly Black History sorties on February 19th.

A team of Tinker Airmen volunteered and planned every aspect from the historic sortie from the ceremony to the training accomplished during the flight.

“We wanted to ensure that we give an appropriate tribute not only to the Tuskegee Airmen but also to the black AWACS aviators who paved the way for us.” said Jasper.

Tinker has a link to the Tuskegee Airmen honored with the flight.

Maj. Charles B. Hall, a documented Tuskegee Airman, was the first African American pilot to down an enemy aircraft in combat. Hall worked at Tinker from 1949 to 1967, and the airpark at the front entrance of the base is named in his honor.

Mahlon Smith, president of the Charles B. Hall Chapter, Tuskegee Airmen Inc. thanked the Airmen for representing the Tuskegee Airmen.

“One of our goals is to get you to realize that they [Tuskegee Airmen] had the same capabilities, the same opportunities to join the military and to serve,” said Smith. “We charge after that every year with youth camps and they look to you and see what you’re doing and what you’ve done and to know they can do that same thing.”

Retired Maj. Michael Walker, representing former and retired Black AWACS Airmen,  recommended they keep the manifest from this historic flight.

Walker was part of a 1995 all-Black crew that celebrated the 50-year anniversary of the Tuskegee Airmen and he wishes they had kept the manifest.

“I think about what the Tuskegee Airmen endured and I think about how far we’ve come,” said Walker. “The charge today is once you get to a position, reach back and help someone else. You lift as you climb.”