Today was our first big event in our 31 day trip to Washington D.C. I was excited just thinking about the impact our eight Tuskegee Airmen and the plane could have on the Cadets. I wanted to bring the plane out to the Academy because it is so important for our future military leaders to understand the important role the Tuskegee Airmen had on our country. Fleur Paysour, the director of media relations, and Paul Gardullo, a curator, with the National Museum of African American History spent the morning documenting interviews with the airmen. We were interrupted many times with Academy planes starting on the nearby ramp. This worked out great as we brought Cadets into the hangar where they meet the Airmen and talked about the plane.
One of the most memorable experiences of the day was the bus ride to lunch at the Officers Club. I was fortunate to sit next to a Tuskegee Airman who flew P-51’s in WWII. He went on to fly various piston and jet fighters in his career. I was amazed when he told me he finished his career flying the F-111. I cannot imagine a career spanning such a huge gap in aircraft technology.
The afternoon brought in the typical afternoon thunderstorms. The Academy had requested another fly-by since we had to cancel the previous day’s event. General Clark, the Commandant of Cadets arrived at the airfield for the fly by. The weather held, and we took off just in time to fly over Jacks Valley and the Cadet training area. The Cadets on the ground cheered as we flew over and the announcer talked about the plane and that General Clark was flying in it.
The day was exhausting, but I was satisfied that we accomplished our goals. Hundreds, possibly over a thousand of our nation’s future leaders were impacted, and the Smithsonian gathered priceless interviews. The evening was topped off over discussions about the exciting future of the plane at a local brew pub with Paul, Fleur, and their film crew.