Travis Airmen attend Accelerating the Legacy event

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Philip Bryant
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

A group of 36 Airmen from Travis Air Force Base, California, flew to Joint Base Charleston to participate in this year's Accelerating the Legacy event, which paid homage to the trailblazing contributions of African American aviators. 

The two-day event not only honored the past but also focused on developing present Airmen and inspiring the next generation of leaders.

Overall, more than 400 military personnel, civilians, and students gathered for a series of discussions ranging from career-broadening opportunities to stories about the past. The event's theme, "Honoring the Past, Developing the Present, Promoting the Future," echoed throughout.

The weekend included accomplished speakers, such as retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Theresa M. Claiborne, the first African American woman to become an Air Force pilot, U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Richard M. Clark, U.S. Air Force Academy superintendent, retired U.S. Army Air Corps Lt. Eugene Richardson, Jr., a Tuskegee Airman, and retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Lloyd Newton, previously the Air Education and Training Command commander.

The event was headlined by Richardson, in which he shared anecdotes from his time as a fighter pilot and reflected on his impact. 

"I did not expect my experience as a Tuskegee Airmen would have such an impact on our society today,” he told the audience. “I did not expect that at all. I was interested in learning how to fly and becoming a military pilot, never knowing that things would turn out the way they are now."

Speakers took turns sharing their stories, Claiborne shared her journey from breaking barriers as a pilot to becoming a mentor for aspiring aviators.

"I didn’t have [mentorship]. It was me, myself and I,” Claiborne said. “You shouldn’t have to go through what I went through. It’s about making sure that people understand things may not have changed, but we hear you and collectively we’re going to try to figure out how to change it.”

At this gathering, Clark spoke to Richardson on stage about the importance of what the Tuskegee Airmen did to shape today’s Air Force.

“You opened those doors, not just for other African Americans, but for everybody else, so that our Air Force, our military in general, will truly reach every corner of our country and pull in the best talent,” he stated. “Grace, resilience, integrity, and teamwork. That’s what the Tuskegee Airmen gave us and what they did to help move our country to where it is. And that’s what we need to take to keep moving forward as individuals, but also as an Air Force, a Space Force, a military, and country.”

U.S. Air Force Col. Patrick L. Brady-Lee, 349th Air Mobility Wing commander, represented Team Travis leadership at the event and spoke to the importance of legacy.

“The legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen touches every member of our Air Force regardless of AFSC (Air Force Specialty Code), race, ethnicity, or religion,” Brady-Lee said. “I believe each of us can identify with some small part of their journey. The hardships they faced, the barriers they overcame, their unwavering commitment to excellence in their craft, and their willingness to serve and defend the Constitution of the United States. If we as Airmen can embody their legacy, we’ll be prepared to deter and if necessary, win against our Nation’s adversaries.”

On the way to Charleston, the Travis crew picked up 10 Air Force Academy cadets in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to participate in the mentorship event.

For Capt. Tyler Weaver, 60th Air Mobility Wing Aviation Inspiration Mentorship (AIM) director and C-5M Super Galaxy instructor pilot, this was the third year he attended the Accelerating the Legacy event, and this year he led the coordination effort that brought 50 officers, enlisted, and cadets from Travis AFB and the academy.

“Beyond the professional development, it’s easy to read an article or training on paper about DE&I (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion),” Weaver said. “But when you get the raw emotion from hearing someone’s story. It simply hits different and forces you to ask yourself, am I doing enough? Or what can I do to make that person feel valued as an integral part of our team?”

Over 83 years after the authorization of a Black flying squadron, Accelerating the Legacy brought together current and former Airmen and cadets of all ranks to share their experiences and provide mentorship, further fostering a sense of community.