Tuskegee Airmen legacy lives on at MacDill
by 2nd Lt. Larry van der Oord
The legacy of America's first Black Airmen is living on thanks in part to the newest Tuskegee Airmen chapter dedicated Tuesday at the Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Conference Center.
MacDill officials named the new chapter for Lt. Gen. John D. Hopper Jr., the vice commander of Air Education and Training Command, who has been associated with the Tuskegee Airmen organization for more than 20 years.
"I never expected anything like this in my wildest dreams. It's a complete shock and an absolute honor," said General Hopper. "I'm humbled and flattered at the same time."
The first Black Airmen trained at the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Tuskegee, Ala., from 1941 to 1946 with nearly 1,000 Airmen receiving commissions and pilot wings in the Army Air Corps.
According the organization's Web site, Tuskegee Airmen Inc. was established in 1972 and incorporated in 1975 to preserve history and raise money for scholarships. The organization's present-day mission is to inspire young people to outstanding achievement and leadership.
That mission includes embracing diversity.
"If you look at the latest census figures you see that our country is in fact becoming more diverse and our military will continue to mirror that population," said General Hopper. "So if we expect to provide young men and women to lead this diverse workforce, they must understand that they are leaders for all different types of people."
Today's diverse leadership would not have been possible, said Judge Robert Albert Decatur during his keynote address, if it weren't for the Tuskegee Airmen. "On their shoulders rested the fate of the Black American," he said./
Tuskegee Airmen Inc. has more than 45 chapters nationally, and membership is open to anyone who supports the aims and objectives of the Tuskegee Airmen.
"I have no doubt that I would not be where I am today had it not been for what the original Tuskegee Airmen did first almost 60 years ago," General Hopper said. "Theirs is a legacy that must be maintained."
The founding members of the Lt. Gen. John D. Hopper Jr. Chapter include retired Lt. Col. William Davis, chapter president; Chief Master Sgt. Lloydette Joseph, 6th Maintenance Group, chapter vice president; Chief Master Sgt. Earnest Houston, 6th Maintenance Squadron, chapter treasurer; Senior Master Sgt. Angel Miranda Jr., 6th Communications Squadron, chapter secretary; Senior Master Sgt. Cedric Pinnock, 6th Maintenance Operations Squadron, chapter public relations; Master Sgt. Bernice Van Dusen, 310th Airlift Squadron, chapter parliamentarian; and Master Sgt. Adam Watts, 6th Air Mobility Wing, chapter historian.