Tuskegee Airmen visit Beale
By Satff Sgt. Robert M. Trujillo, 9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 01, 2012
BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., --
Members of a local Tuskegee Airmen Inc. chapter toured the base and showed a screening of the new George Lucas film "Red Tails," Feb. 24, in honor of the base's celebration of African-American/Black History Month.
The term Tuskegee Airmen refers to all who were involved in the Army Air Corps program to train African-Americans to fly and maintain combat aircraft.
Three members from the Sacramento, Calif., based chapter were original Tuskegee Airmen who went through the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama during World War II.
Chief Master Sgt. (Ret.) Lenard Yates, Senior Master Sgt. (Ret.) George W. Porter and Tech. Sgt. (Ret.) Boyd Taylor were all mechanics who went through the school. Yates later learned how to fly and earned his wings as an enlisted serviceman.
"It's an honor and a privilege to have these three original Tuskegee Airmen with us today, as well as other members of the George S. "Spanky" Roberts Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Inc., and family members." said Col. Lawrence Hoffman, who over saw the event.
The Airmen of Tuskegee were tasked with escort duties for bombers during World War II and were known for painting the tails of their P-51 Mustang's red, earning the nickname "Red Tails."
The famed Airmen were given a tour of Beale and its unique mission. They toured various parts of the base to include static displays of the U-2 Dragon Lady, R-Q4 Global Hawk and MC-12 Liberty.
"I worked on this type of aircraft (U-2) during my career, probably before most of you were born," said Taylor, referring to some of the maintainers who were accompanying the aircraft. "It's good to see her still flying."
The tour was highlighted when members of Team Beale were given a screening of "Red Tails" and a short film "Double Victory," which documented the real life challenges of racism and discrimination that faced aspiring African-American pilots in the U.S. military during the 1940s.
After the film "Double Victory," Porter, Yates and Taylor answered questions during a question and answer session before watching "Red Tails."
"It was an eye-opening experience," said Senior Airman Gary Geiger, 9th Communications Squadron cable antenna journeyman. "I had no idea of the amount of sacrifices these men had to endure. It was an honor to meet them."
At the end of "Red Tails" an audience member asked if they knew during World War II that their story would end up being famous.
"We didn't know it at the time that it would end up turning into all this," said Yates. "We just wanted the opportunity to fly."
Yates humbly added, "And when we got that opportunity, I think it turned out alright."