CAF Red Tail Squadron

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

Profiles of Tuskegee Airmen: Dr. Fenton Sands

Screen Shot 2017 03 22 at 11.47.59 AMDefying expectations is a hallmark of the Tuskegee Airmen. It may seem unusual that a kid from the urban metropolis of New York City would emerge as an international agricultural expert, but original Tuskegee Airmen Dr. Fenton sands did just that, and much more. He would grow up to leave those crowded city streets for the Ivy League, serve his country, and go on to dedicate his post-war civilian career to people all over the world. Like other inspirational Tuskegee Airmen, Sands has left his mark on history.

Although Sands was born in Harlem in 1918, his family originally emigrated to the U.S. from the Bahamas to find better opportunities for work and education. The sentiment “Get an education!” ran strong in their family. The children knew that, no matter what, this was their path forward. Sands hit that first milestone in 1936, graduating from Stuyvesant High School, one of the best high schools in New York City at the time.

Now called Jackie Robinson Park, Sands was inspired by Colonial Park, 10 blocks of open space in Harlem that sparked his curious nature. Growing up across this street from this gem where city met nature, his love for science took root, eventually leading him to Cornell to study agriculture. He was defying odds – a black man from the big city majoring in agriculture at a rural and predominantly white college.

He studied hard at Cornell, learned to farm, worked for a power company, and was a resident of the now-famous Telluride House. Still in existence today, the Telluride House is a unique community of Cornell scholars – undergraduate, graduate and faculty – passionate about intellectual engagement, democratic self-governance, and community living. Within this setting, Sands was afforded a rich and intense academic experience. He graduated in 1942 with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, majoring in horticulture and agronomy, the science of soil management and crop production. He was the first in his family to earn a college degree.

While still at Cornell, Sands applied to the U.S. Army Air Corps’ new flight training program for black men because of his interest in aviation. He also wanted the opportunity to do something worthwhile for his country that was previously restricted from black Americans. Many people in the country, like Sands, were eager to join the war effort, and wanted the chance to do so regardless of the color of their skin, in critical roles where their skills and education could make a marked difference in fighting the enemy.

In June of 1942, Sands passed the examination needed to qualify as a cadet in the Air Corps to the great delight and pride of his entire family. By December he was assigned to pre-flight training at the Army Air Force Advanced Flying Training School in Tuskegee, Alabama and his future in aviation was set in motion.

As a cadet, Sands was a part of the now iconic picture with then New York City mayor Firello LaGuardia with the first class of black aviation navigation cadets who would go on to fly bombers. The group was heralded on this historic visit to New York and many flocked to see them in a parade, amazed at the prospect of black Americans flying aircraft in the war effort.

Sands was commissioned as an officer February of 1944. By June he completed bombardier training and was later assigned to the 477th Bombardier Group, becoming a member of a unique, select group of black navigators-bombardiers, the first of their kind in the military.

The war ended before the 477th was deployed overseas and Sands was honorably discharged in December of 1945 and shortly after married Dorothy Holder. The two moved to Africa in 1946, working as missionaries in Liberia to help re-open and revitalize the church-run Cuttington College. Sands would work on the school’s agricultural program, and during that time their two first children were born.

Sands and his family returned to the states so he could pursue a doctorate, and in 1954 he graduated from Cornell once again, this time with a PhD in agriculture. With their third child born during this time, the growing family once again returned to Africa where Sands served as Cuttington’s Vice President and Director of Agriculture. Later he would go on to take an assignment with his family in Nigeria.

His important work in agriculture expanded to work with USAID and the World Bank, serving in such locations as South Sudan, Sudan, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, the Virgin Islands, Morocco, Tunisia, Madagascar, Greece, South Yemen, North Yemen, Oman, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Thailand and the Phillippines. He retired in 1982.

Dr. and Mrs. Sands continued to explore and travel the world in their retirement, and joined several civic organizations. He was a member of the General “Chappie” James chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., mentoring young people through his inspirational military service and civilian career experience.

Sands passed away in 1998. His commitment to education and life’s work inspired all three of his children and seven grandchildren attended college. For a more detailed account of his life and to see photos and original documents from him time as a Tuskegee Airmen and working around the world, read “A Tuskegee Airman and Much More” by his son, Fenton Sands Jr.

We salute you, Dr. Sands, for your service and worthy contributions to make our world a better place. RISE ABOVE!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Founding member Don Hinz inducted into CAF Hall of Fame

IMG 3496In 2010, the Commemorative Air Force established the CAF Hall of Fame to honor members who have made monumental contributions towards the success and worldwide impact of the organization. On March 4, 2017, the late CAF Red Tail Squadron founding member Don Hinz, retired Navy commander, was inducted into the CAF Hall of Fame for his outstanding efforts to honor the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen through his volunteer service with the CAF.

Tragically, Don passed away in 2004 from injuries sustained in an engine malfunction in the P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen, but his vision to bring the lessons of these important American heroes into every classroom in the country continues to fuel the work of the CAF Red Tail Squadron. The addition of the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit to the CAF Red Tail Squadron was a direct result of that vision.

At the induction ceremony, CAF Red Tail Squadron P-51C Mustang pilot and founding member Doug Rozendaal presented the award to Don's son, USMC officer and pilot Ben Hinz, who accepted it on behalf of the entire Hinz family.

Hinz noted that his father would not have accepted the award solely for himself. “He would point to the men and women who, 75 years ago, stood on the grounds of the Tuskegee Institute and fought for the opportunity to defend their country in the skies above Europe. That’s where the honor really lies. And if I think about how we honor their story and their tradition, along with my dad, I think the answer is quite simple. We fulfill my dad’s vision to put the story into every classroom in America of courage in the face of adversity as embodied by the Tuskegee Airmen. Thank you to the CAF for continuing to fulfill his vision and honoring his memory tonight.”

Don’s respect and reverence for the experience of the Tuskegee Airmen brought a vintage warbird back to the skies to inspire an entire generation to RISE ABOVE, and not just wow the audience at air shows. He saw restoring the P-51C Mustang as a tool to engage and ignite conversations with people of all ages that would help bring about an appreciation for the sacrifices made by the Tuskegee Airmen to serve their country while fighting for their own equality.

CAF's tribute to Hinz from the 2017 CAF Hall of Fame induction ceremony includes an interview he gave in the early days of the project. He said, “This aircraft is going to represent the contributions and sacrifices of African Americans in World War II. It will travel the country – maybe even the world – telling their story, celebrating their history and educating youth about their ability to follow their dreams, overcome obstacles and find their success.”

Hinz left an indelible mark not only on the CAF Red Tail Squadron, but also on the entire Commemorative Air Force. “Don brought education to the forefront,” said Rozendaal. “He knew this was not about an airplane; it was a tool we needed to tell the story of the Tuskegee Airmen. He was a great leader and an incredible guy. He made me a better man. Don Hinz made this a better organization.”

The CAF Red Tail Squadron extends hearty congratulations to the Hinz family. Join us as we continue to honor his vision to inspire and educate people everywhere through the remarkable story of the Tuskegee Airmen.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Officially taking to the airways TODAY!

We’re excited to report that CAF Red Tail Squadron P-51C Mustang pilot and Squadron Leader Doug Rozendaal has just taken final delivery of the Tuskegee Airmen after over a year of repairs. The aircraft is now officially back in service of the CAF Red Tail Squadron to honor the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen to audiences around the country for the 2017 air show season!

Today Rozendaal is flying the Mustang to the CAF National Airbase at Dallas Executive Airport where the aircraft will rest for a short bit before hitting the air show circuit. The CAF Red Tail Squadron’s RISE ABOVE: Red Tail program has already launched its 2017 cross-country tour and is currently in Phoenix, Ariz. for private visits at local schools, with special guest original Tuskegee Airman Col Charles McGee.

The P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen is slated to make its public debut at the 2017 Yuma Airshow March 17 and 18 where it will wow the audience with an aerobatic performance in the show, and be on static display alongside the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit to inspire and inform people of all ages with the important message of the Tuskegee Airmen, our country’s first black military pilots and their support personnel.

The Mustang has been tapped to appear at many events around the country in 2017. To find out if the RISE ABOVE: Red Tail program, featuring the P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen and the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit, will be near you, keep tabs on our events calendar. Make plans to come see us in person, introduce yourself and leave inspired to RISE ABOVE any challenge, just like the Tuskegee Airmen.

Once again, welcome back to our P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen! You are a treasure!

Photo Courtesy Adam Glowski March 2017 copy

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Portraits of Tuskegee Airmen: Jerome and John “Ellis” Edwards

During World War II, many families proudly watched their sons and daughters pledge their service to their country. Some sent – and lost – multiple children to the war effort. For the Edwards family of Steubenville, Ohio, their two sons, Jerome and John “Ellis,” became part of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, piloting aircraft to join the air war over Europe. Although they were not immune to the tragedy of war, they have celebrated the Edwards’ brothers’ achievements for generations.

Both brothers graduated from Steubenville High School and went on to attend West Virginia State College. Jerome enrolled in 1935, and “Ellis” followed two years later at his older brother’s insistence. “Ellis” had aspirations of becoming a dentist, but instead both enrolled in the school’s aviation program when WVSC became one of the first historically black colleges to participate in the Civilian Pilot Training Program.

A nationwide program to cultivate pilots for the war effort, the CPT was an especially exciting development because of the opportunities it opened up for aspiring black pilots. It would produce the country’s first black military pilots and their support personnel, known as the Tuskegee Airmen. After completing CPT, cadets would go on to advanced flight training through the U.S. Army Air Corps. Black flight cadets were segregated at the Tuskegee Institute, where they learned to fly the fighter aircraft that would be play a crucial role in the United States’ air power of World War II.

Both brothers became skilled pilots, earning their private pilots licenses in the CPT. When Jerome graduated in 1940, he went off to Tuskegee where he successfully completed all phases of advanced training. He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in September of 1942 and assigned to the 99th Fighter Squadron, part of the 332nd Fighter Group. He flew both the P-40 and P-51 aircraft, assigned to the Army Air Force Base at Oscoda, Michigan, for advanced aerial combat training.

Tragically, Jerome was killed May 7, 1943 when his P-40 suffered an engine malfunction at takeoff resulting in a fatal crash. It was the first fatality suffered by the 332nd Fighter Group, and a terrible loss for the Edwards family.

Although he qualified for a family hardship honorable discharge after the loss of his brother, “Ellis” made the decision to remain in the U.S. Army Air Corps and honor his brother by dedicating his military service to his memory. “Ellis” graduated from Tuskegee and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant April 8, 1944.

By early 1945, “Ellis” began his service overseas at Ramitelli Air Force Base in Italy conducting combat and bomber escort missions as part of the 12th and 15th Air Forces. On April 1 of that year while serving as the squadron section leader on a bombing and strafing mission over Nazi held territory, “Ellis” shot down two German ME-109 aircraft. Tuskegee Airmen took 12 enemy aircraft down that day.

For the two he brought down singlehandedly, “Ellis” received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

During the remainder of his war service, he also received Air Medals with Oak Leaf Clusters, and as part of the 332nd Fighter Group, earned a Presidential Unit citation for the combat skills of its pilots. After World War II, he flew multiple combat missions during the Korean War in the F86 Sabre Jet. Upon leaving the military, he was an announcer for a radio station in Washington, D.C. and eventually retired in Los Angeles.

John “Ellis” Edwards passed away on June 3, 1979.

For service to our country, their extraordinary achievements as Tuskegee Airmen and for being proud sons of Ohio, the names of Jerome and John “Ellis” Edwards are inscribed on the Western Pennsylvania Tuskegee Airmen Memorial, erected in 2013 in Sewickley, Pennsylvania to honor the almost 100 pioneering Tuskegee Airmen from the western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio area.

May their service, sacrifice and struggle for equality inspire us all to triumph over adversity and achieve remarkable heights.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Hear the Tuskegee Airmen, “In Their Own Words”

200x200 In Their WordsWe are excited to announce that we will be offering the original film “In Their Own Words: The Tuskegee Airmen” by Bryton Entertainment in our web store. This touching documentary debuted on television stations across the United States early in 2017 and is now available on DVD for you to add to your collection or share with someone who could be inspired to RISE ABOVE with the powerful message of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Get your copy today and support the work of the CAF Red Tail Squadron with your purchase. We’re pleased to offer free shipping on this special order as well!

This fully re-mastered and expanded edition contains over 35 minutes of bonus interviews and a special panel discussion at the National Air Force Museum with original Tuskegee Airmen Lt Col George Hardy, former NASA administrator Col Fred Gregory, the film’s producer Bryan Williams and director Denton Adkinson.

Get your copy and help the CAF Red Tail Squadron keep the history and legacy of our country’s first black military pilots alive for generations to come! Watch a sneak peak on our YouTube channel and share with others to inspire them to RISE ABOVE their own obstacles and achieve success.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Check out our line-up for the 2017 to air show circuit!

After an incident last year resulted in an 11 month restoration, the CAF Red Tail Squadron's P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen will return to flight this 2017 air show season to wow audiences with its aerobatic tribute to our nation’s first black military pilots and their support personnel.

Our unique cross-country outreach program also includes the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit. This mobile movie theater takes visitors on a journey through time – and then through the air – with the original short film “Rise Above.” The theater’s dynamic 160-degree panoramic screen creates the sensation of being in the cockpit soaring above the clouds in a P-51C Mustang, the signature aircraft of the Tuskegee Airmen. Entrance to the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit is always free, although tickets may be required to host venues.

Here is a snapshot of where you can find the CAF Red Tail Squadron. For a full list of events, visit redtail.org/calendar.

Dallas, TX – February 6-17

CAF National Airbase Tribute to Black History Month

 

Yuma, AZ – March 17-18

MCAS Yuma Airshow

 

Columbus, GA – April 8-9

Thunder in the Valley Air Show

 

Montgomery, AL – April 8-9

Maxwell Air Force Base Air Show

 

Meridian, MS – April 15

Community Open House at Key Field

 

Panama City, FL – April 22-23

Gulf Coast Salute Open House & Air Show

 

Lake Charles, LA – April 28-30

Chennault International Airshow

 

Waseca, MN – July 13-17

Waseca County Free Fair

 

Ypsilanti, MI – September 2-4

Thunder Over Michigan Air Show

 

Omaha, NE – September 13-17

Nebraska Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. Community Outreach Event

 

Port Clinton, OH – September 20-24

Liberty Aviation Museum Open House

 

Tallahassee, FL – October 31-November 5

Community Open House

 

Atlanta, GA – October 7-8

CAF Atlanta Warbird Weekend

While on tour, the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit makes additional visits to local schools where students are encouraged to think critically about the group’s Six Guiding Principles – Aim High, Believe In Yourself, Use Your Brain, Be Ready To Go, Never Quit and Expect to Win. Contact Kristi Younkin, logistics coordinator, at logistics@redtail.org or (479) 228-4520 for information on how to bring the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit to your community.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Meet Gwen McNeal, our Tuskegee Airmen liaison

At the CAF Red Tail Squadron, we call our volunteers ambassadors. Why this distinction? Because those that join our team do so out of a deep reverence and respect for the Tuskegee Airmen. Their commitment to our mission is evident. They do more than lend a hand; they are a friendly face to the thousands of people that are touched by the important message of the Tuskegee Airmen. We’re proud to have these ambassadors help spread the word!

Gwen McNealOne of our ambassadors, Gwen McNeal recently stepped up to become the Squadron’s liaison to original Tuskegee Airmen. Her service to others goes far beyond her work with the CAF Red Tail Squadron. McNeal has been serving others through her many years in the field of vocational rehabilitation for people with disabilities.

McNeal is the manager of services for the blind for a large region of Michigan. At all levels of ability or degrees of blindness, clients in her care are instilled with the confidence that there are, in fact, very few things that a blind person cannot do. At times coming from a place of despair, people leave McNeal and her staff with a renewed sense of purpose, along with the skills and tools to maximize independence.

“Our work encompasses a wide array of services that we offer people with blindness, from proper glasses for babies to job placement for adults. It is very rewarding work,” said McNeal. “It’s remarkable to begin a journey with a client who feels they have no hope, and watch them evolve and realize what they truly are capable of. Each time it’s amazing to see what this dedicated staff can do.”

With a bachelor’s degree in deaf and blind education, a master’s degree in learning disabilities, and advanced training in rehabilitation leadership and vocational rehabilitation administration, McNeal has made it her life’s work to help others achieve their greatest potential. She has shared this passion for education and witnessed others reap the rewards.

“I counseled a man that became blind later in life,” recalls McNeal. “I encouraged him to go back to college. Although he thought it was unattainable, he ended up getting his degree and coming back to work at the same agency I worked for. I have seen students I’ve worked with grow up, marry, have families and careers. Watching them succeed has been so inspirational for me.”

Although she always knew she wanted to help people, McNeal says she was guided towards a career in the media and started out pursuing a degree in broadcast journalism. But when a professor made a racist and disparaging remark, it was enough for her look at other majors.

“I took an internship in the deaf and blind education department, and it really changed my life,” she says. “My sister had problems with vision since birth, and it was here I saw an avenue to help people like her. I had finally found my passion, which is still with me today. People with disabilities can defy expectations and I encourage anyone who feels like they need help – or knows someone who does – to contact their local state agency for the blind. You may surprise yourself with what you can learn and accomplish!”

After meeting and volunteering with several original Tuskegee Airmen, McNeal felt a personal determination to ensure that the important experiences and lessons of these role models were not lost to future generations. She grew up with a keen interest in aviation, which led her to learn about the Airmen, but it was meeting these unsung heroes that kindled her passion to want to tell their stories.

“In my role as Tuskegee Airmen liaison for the CAF Red Tail Squadron, I want to help honor the Airmen that are still with us and help them share their life lessons,” she says. “Whatever roles they played – pilots, cooks, nurses, mechanics – the Airmen exemplify for young people that preparing yourself is the first step if you want any chance of succeeding. We need to show kids how to define their own heroes, and teaching them about the Tuskegee Airmen can help do that.”

To learn more about the CAF Red Tail Squadron ambassador program, visit http://www.redtail.org/support-the-mission/volunteer/.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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We’re ready to kick off the air show season with the debut of our Mustang in Yuma!

Our unique tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen will be at the 2017 Yuma Airshow March 18 where we will debut the first showing of our P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen after a year of restorations. Be inspired by the Tuskegee Airmen – the nation’s first black military pilots and their support personnel – with our Mustang and the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit!

Are you in the Yuma area? Before the airshow kicks off, the Traveling Exhibit will visit the Fourth Avenue Junior High School to bring the important message of the Tuskegee Airmen directly to the classroom. The public is invited to visit the Traveling Exhibit at the school from 3:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 15. For more information, contact Jose Cazares, Fourth Avenue Junior High principal, at (928) 580-8117.

After an incident last year resulted in 11 months of repairs, our P-51C Mustang will return to flight at the air show to wow the audience with its aerobatic tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen. The aircraft will also be on static display for up-close viewing, a rare treat for attendees as it is one of only a few like it still flying.The free RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit mobile movie theater will be open at the air show Saturday, March 18, featuring the original short film “Rise Above” that takes the audience on a journey through time – and then through the air. The theater’s dynamic 160-degree panoramic screen creates the sensation of being in the cockpit soaring above the clouds in the P-51C Mustang, the signature aircraft of the Tuskegee Airmen.

“We offer a truly one-of-a-kind adventure that resonates with all ages,” said CAF Red Tail Squadron Leader and pilot Doug Rozendaal, who will fly the Mustang in the air show. “It’s much more than a history lesson. The Tuskegee Airmen’s ability to triumph over adversity serves as a means to inspire others to RISE ABOVE obstacles in their own lives and achieve their goals.”

All are welcome to join the CAF Red Tail Squadron at the FREE family-friendly 2017 Yuma Airshow to be held at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, AZ March 17 and 18. To learn more, visit www.yumaairshow.com.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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We’ve expanded our offerings in celebration of Black History Month!

To celebrate the Tuskegee Airmen’s contribution to our country, we have unveiled a new “Resources for educators” area of our website in honor of Black History Month that features a free downloadable RISE ABOVE Resource Kit for teachers and youth leaders. The materials and activities can be used to enhance lessons about the Tuskegee Airmen and fuel participation in our Black History Month essay contest, going on now until February 28.

Find the resources for educators at http://www.redtail.org/rise-red-tail/rise-resource-kit/.

In an effort to bolster our educational outreach efforts and impact more students with the inspirational history of the Tuskegee Airmen, the CAF Red Tail Squadron has made their resources easily accessible to all. They are also offering supporting materials such as books, classroom posters and dog tags featuring the Squadron’s Six Guiding Principles at more affordable price points.

After learning about the Tuskegee Airmen from the RISE ABOVE Resource Kit, teachers and youth leaders are encouraged to have their students participate in the Squadron’s 2017 Black History Month essay contest. This fun way to learn about the achievements of the Tuskegee Airmen will give students the chance to put into action what they have learned about the importance of education, training and especially determination, based on the Tuskegee Airmen’s example of overcoming adversity. The contest will be a lesson both in inspiration and finding the motivation to achieve. Prizes will be awarded to first, second and third place winners in three age categories.

“We were founded on the vision to bring the history of the Tuskegee Airmen into every classroom in America, and the addition of these resources to our website speaks to that effort,” said LaVone Kay, marketing director for the CAF Red Tail Squadron. “We wanted to do something that would help put our tools directly into the hands of more teachers and make it easier to integrate the inspirational history of the Tuskegee Airmen into lesson plans. I encourage anyone that works with students to take advantage of these free and affordable resources.”

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Volunteering – A labor of love

This is a special note from Bill Shepard, CAF Red Tail Squadron P-51C pilot. Bill is not only an active member of the CAF, he volunteers his time with the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. and the Urban Pilots Network to inspire others to achieve success.

Aviation has been a part of my life from a very young age. My first inspiration came from my father who was in the United States Marine Corps and served in a fighter squadron in the Vietnam War. After moving to Canada as a kid, I joined the Royal Canadian 19th and 27th air cadet squadrons where I participated in a plethora of fun and challenging activities that prepared me for a future in the cockpit. A string of experiences and hard work led me to become a pilot, and eventually fly warbirds. I’m humbled to have stood on the shoulders of the brave Tuskegee Airmen who paved the way for me.

I’ve had the opportunity to listen to many stories of how the Tuskegee Airmen have made a positive impact on so many lives. Their influence and inspiration spans the eras – yesterday, today and tomorrow. By honoring their legacy and sharing their experience, we can have a positive impact and educate people of all ages. These experiences fuel my passion to volunteer for Tuskegee Airmen Inc. and the CAF Red Tail Squadron.

I’m also a member of the Urban Pilots Network. This group gives their time and talent to bridge the gap between aviation and the urban community. I currently participate in outreach programs with the group and try to “Inspire for Higher,” which is our motto. Carving out time to give to these worthy groups isn’t easy, but it’s a labor of love that I believe is very important. It’s my way of paying forward the opportunities the Tuskegee Airmen worked hard to ensure that people of color like myself could have.

It’s a privilege to pilot the CAF Red Tail Squadron’s P-51C Mustang around the country and speak to kids and adults about the importance of the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen. I’ve particularly enjoyed the times I’ve worked directly with original Tuskegee Airmen who so generously give of their time to volunteer with our organizations. Their experience can translate to all ages and backgrounds. I’ve tried to live by the example they’ve set, and I hope my volunteer work can impart that positive message to others.

In the New Year, I wish you all a renewed and refreshed spirit to carry on the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen. May they be remembered and honored for generations to come.

Inspire for higher!

Shep

Bill Shepard and UPN members

Bill Shepard with members of the Urban Pilots Network at an event with the CAF Dixie Wing's "Red Nose".

 

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Join us in congratulating Doug Rozendaal on his return to CAF Red Tail Squadron Leader!

Today we are proud to announce that P-51C Mustang pilot Doug Rozendaal will return to the helm as Squadron Leader. A dedicated volunteer, Rozendaal has played a pivotal role in the formation and ongoing success of the Squadron and its mission.

We would also like to thank our former Squadron Leader Bill Shepard for his service to the organization. Shepard is currently the Vice President of Education for the CAF and will continue his role as P-51C Mustang pilot and volunteer with the leadership team.

“Doug Rozendaal has a long history of leadership roles within the Commemorative Air Force organization. We are happy to have him return to the position of CAF Red Tail Squadron Leader and are certain under his leadership the program will continue to thrive,” said Commemorative Air Force President Stephan C. Brown.

Rozendaal paved his own way to a career in aviation and has logged more than 10,000 hours in the air flying more than 170 different types of aircraft. As a certified warbird pilot, he has flown a P-51 Mustang, Corsair, Hellcat, Wildcat, P-40, TBM, Zero, DC-3, PBY Catalina, BT-13, T-6, T-28 trainers, as well as the CAF’s B-25 bomber Miss Mitchell. He has been a member of the CAF since 1989. Rozendaal is the owner of PetroBlend, an independent lubricant blender and distributor of automotive, heavy duty, agricultural and industrial lubricants.

“I am excited and look forward to building on Bill's successes,” said Rozendaal. “In every metric, RISE ABOVE: Red Tail is a valuable educational and inspirational program that has exceeded our expectations since its inception. We look forward to continuing that into the future.”

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

 

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We’re celebrating five years and a half million visitors!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is proud to share that we recently wrapped up our annual cross country tour of the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit, participating in 36 events in 16 states over 10 months. This marks five years since the Traveling Exhibit was launched to share the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen with audiences across the country. In that time span, over half a million people have experienced a compelling and inspirational piece of American history delivered by this unique educational outreach vehicle!

The RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit is a fully functional mobile movie theater housed in a climate controlled 53’ semi trailer that is deployed to events around the country. This immersive experience inspires and educates audiences about the Tuskegee Airmen, our county’s first black military pilots and their support personnel, and the obstacles they had to overcome to serve their country during World War II. Because of its dynamic 160-degree panoramic screen, the film creates the feeling of being in the cockpit soaring above the clouds in the P-51C Mustang – the signature aircraft of the Tuskegee Airmen. View a preview at www.redtail.org/traveling-exhibit/.

“The five year mark is an important milestone for us,” said Kristi Younkin, CAF Red Tail Squadron logistics coordinator. “We’ve visited 36 states since the inception of this key component of our educational outreach program. Our goal has been to bring the important message of the Tuskegee Airmen to audiences in every state of the continental U.S., and welcoming over a half million visitors to the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit is exciting and emboldens us to work hard to bring the lesson of the Airmen to new communities and events.”

For further information about how to bring the CAF Red Tail Squadron’s RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit or P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen to your community, event or school, contact Younkin at logistics@redtail.org or (479) 228-4520.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Pearl Harbor Day, 75 years later

December 7, 1941 changed the landscape of the American public. Service before self seeped into the collective conscious. People of all walks of life felt compelled to step forward and heed the call. But not everyone was welcome.

The men who would become known as the Tuskegee Airmen – our country’s first black military pilots – felt this draw to service same as everyone else. They had the passion and skill to fight the war from the air, and worked hard for this opportunity at a time when they had to surmount absurd obstacles to be able to do so. While military leadership dug in their heels on their false belief of racial superiority, the Tuskegee Airmen endured prejudice and mistreatment in order to fly and fight for their country.

49While some thought the color of their skin should preclude them from serving our country in this manner, times were changing and the war effort would need as many pilots as it could get. Borne of this necessity, the Tuskegee Airmen would ultimately prove to the entire military establishment that their ability to perform as well as their white counterparts was far more meaningful than any perceived lack of ability based on their complexion. The resulting contribution to the war effort and desegregation of the U.S. Armed Forces was huge, although under-acknowledged for decades.

75 years later, has apathy replaced the horror of that day that will live in infamy? We hope not. We believe the lessons of the Tuskegee Airmen – and that of all the men and women who served and sacrificed during this terrible war – will not only be remembered, but inspire each one of us to rise above our own obstacles and be our very best. The most powerful inoculation against apathy, and repeating past mistakes, is empathy and remembrance.

On this day set aside to reflect on the attack that drew our nation into a world war, we pause to remember and appreciate the two wars fought by the Tuskegee Airmen – against fascism abroad and racism at home. And may we forever honor their service and sacrifice.

RISE ABOVE!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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P-51C Mustang “Tuskegee Airmen” has successful test flight

P 51C Tuskegee Airmen returns to flight photo courtesy of AirCorps AviationAlong with AirCorps Aviation, specialists in the restoration, maintenance, and rebuilding of vintage WWII aircraft, we are proud to announce the successful return to flight of the Squadron’s P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen. The aircraft had been out of commission for eight months to undergo careful and meticulous repair following a hard landing. The aircraft made a safe and successful test flight today, and is expected to return shortly to its mission to honor the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen at air shows and events around the country.

“There were no issues with the test flight and the aircraft flew great,” said Doug Rozendaal, one of the founders of the CAF Red Tail Squadron who piloted the aircraft. “We can now get the P-51 back up in the air where it belongs, inspiring young people to rise above adversity, just like the Tuskegee Airmen. We look forward to filling up our 2017 schedule with air shows and events that will give us the opportunity to fulfill our important mission.”

The success of this test flight marks the first step in getting the aircraft back on the air show circuit. The mission of the CAF Red Tail Squadron is to educate audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. The P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen plays a pivotal role in this outreach effort, along with the Squadron’s RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit mobile movie theater.

“One of the Six Guiding Principles of the CAF Red Tail Squadron is to never quit. The decision to repair the Mustang is a great example of that principle,” said Erik Hokuf, managing partner of AirCorps Aviation. “Our team was proud to help bring this very special aircraft back to flying status so it can once again inspire young people to rise above their own obstacles, just like the Tuskegee Airmen.”

Supporters of the CAF Red Tail Squadron and warbird enthusiasts have been able to track the process in real time with AirCorps Aviation’s up-to-date status reports and photos on the Squadron’s Facebook page. Over 3,000 hours were logged to get the P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen back in the air.

“I have a long history with the P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen as I was involved in both the first and second restorations,” said Mark Tisler, manager of restorations and one of the owners of AirCorps Aviation. “The CAF Red Tail Squadron teaches young people to never allow obstacles or circumstances to stop them from achieving their goals. The two restorations and the repair demonstrate the Squadron not only believes those teachings, but also sets an example of how to overcome obstacles.”

For further information about how to bring the CAF Red Tail Squadron’s P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen to your community, event or school, contact Kristi Younkin, CAF Red Tail Squadron logistics coordinator, at logistics@redtail.org or (479) 228-4520.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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CAF Red Tail Squadron helps honor original Tuskegee Airmen on Veterans Day

This story was submitted by Annie Lewis, a college student who was a guest of the Commemorative Air Force at a Veterans Day event in Geneseo, NY.

On a beautiful fall day in western New York, veterans, family members and peers gathered with Congressman Christopher Collins at the National Warplane Museum in Geneseo, NY to honor the Tuskegee Airmen.

Although 15,000 of the original Tuskegee Airmen were collectively granted a Congressional Gold Medal by President George W. Bush in 2007, not all were able to be there. Five of the men who missed the original ceremony were honored this Veterans Day with a medal and flag in front of a packed crowd in the museum’s hangar. Wallace C. Higgins and Herbert Thorpe accepted their honors in person, while family members accepted awards for Leland H. Pennington, Richard Thorpe, and Robert M. Johnson, who have passed on.

a DSCF7647CAF Red Tail Squadron Leader Bill Shepard was a featured speaker at the event.

“There are no words to completely express the honor and pride that I felt to be a part of this event,” remarked Shepard. “We were able to celebrate the contributions of a group of individuals that forever changed the face and the landscape of today's military through commitment, perseverance and sacrifice to our great country."

Michael Joseph, historian of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., described the importance of their history to the crowd.

“The Tuskegee Airmen often came home to stares of disbelief when they told of what they did during the war,” he said. “Their children and grandchildren would cry when told by their teachers that they could never serve in that capacity because it’s not mentioned in the history books. We have a heritage to protect and a legacy that we must pass on. That is what we are doing here today.”

The ceremony garnered approximately 300 attendees. Many family members of the Airmen were touched by this amount of support.

“When I came in, I was shocked to see all these people here to honor my brother,” said the brother of Robert M. Johnson. Johnson was killed in service in 1944 at the age of 19. His brother received the medal for him.

Congressman Collins said that he was honored to lead the ceremony, and thanked the veterans and family members for participating.

Following the ceremony, attendees could visit the National Warplane Museum to view their exhibits of actual WWII aircraft collections. The museum also holds airshows to put these planes back in the air.

            

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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The new CAF Red Tail Squadron website is LIVE!

The staff and volunteers of the CAF Red Tail Squadron are proud to announce the launch of our new website at www.redtail.org to better meet the needs of those looking for historically accurate information about the Tuskegee Airmen. The site has been redesigned and filled with even more content to ensure visitors can easily access fully vetted, in-depth and inspirational material.

Our website also features our innovative outreach program, RISE ABOVE: Red Tail, which includes the P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen and RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit mobile movie theater, that tour the country to educate people about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen.

“I’m excited about the CAF Red Tail Squadron's new web site, especially because of its focus on accurate historical information," said Dr. Harold Brown, an original Tuskegee Airman. “As a former college faculty member and Vice President, I am keenly aware of how critical it is to pass meaningful history on from one generation to the next. Bravo to the CAF Red Tail Squadron's commitment to education!”

People that visit redtail.org will also find out how the Tuskegee Airmen inspire people of all ages to rise above their own obstacles and achieve success. Students, educators, journalists and anyone looking to learn about these remarkable Americans are invited to visit the site for their personal or educational efforts. Additional resources will be added over the next several months that will further the site’s offerings.

“Unfortunately, a lot of myths and misinformation persist about the Tuskegee Airmen because their experience was not well recognized or documented for decades,” said LaVone Kay, CAF Red Tail Squadron marketing director. “If you’re looking to learn about the Tuskegee Airmen, we want you to know that our website is home to a rich repository of photos and factually accurate information fully vetted by the Air Force Historical Research Agency. We welcome you to take a look and be inspired.”

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Tuskegee Airman reunited with his aircraft from WWII

The Hangar 11 Collection, a group of four restored warbirds flown at airshows in the UK and Europe, did a little investigating on it’s P-51D Tall in the Saddle, and made a discovery that led to a 91-year-old veteran being reunited with his original aircraft from World War II.

Owner Peter Teichman traced the lineage of the serial number of the Mustang back to the 332nd Fighter Group of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Representatives of the Hangar 11 Collection collaborated with the CAF Red Tail Squadron to learn more about the aircraft’s history. It was brought to light that this particular aircraft, numbered A33, may have been the same Mustang piloted by original Tuskegee Airman George Hardy, a longtime supporter of the Squadron.

Photo courtesy of the Craig Huntly CollectionTeichman decided he wanted to paint the aircraft with its original markings, complete with red tail, to honor the Tuskegee Airmen, and wanted Hardy to be a part of the process and ensure the reproduction was accurate. Craig Huntly, nephew of an original Tuskegee Airman, provided the only two known photographs of Tall in the Saddle, which assisted in the accurate reproduction of the restored aircraft’s markings.

At the end of September, Hardy was flown to England accompanied by Huntly and reunited with the aircraft to the delight of the British press and local aviation and war history enthusiasts. The restoration was complete, and a flying piece of World War II history was once again united with its pilot.

Hardy’s visit included many events and fanfare over several days, and culminated in a flight in Tall in the Saddle into the Royal Air Force (RAF) Lakenheath station in Suffolk, England, home of the USAF’s 48th Fighter Wing, assigned to the United States Air Forces in Europe - Air Forces Africa. The Mustang was displayed alongside the 48th’s F-15 aircraft, juxtaposing the fighters of yesterday and today.

Craig Huntly and original Tuskegee Airman George Hardy with his aircraft from World War IIOnce again united with his P-51D, Hardy brought a great deal of inspirational to all those fortunate enough to meet him and see this remarkable aircraft up close. At each event, Hardy and Tall in the Saddle were greeted by crowds eager to share their respect and enthusiasm for these war heroes. A fitting tribute to a fine aviator, and the iconic signature aircraft of the Tuskegee Airmen.

(Photos courtesy of the Craig Huntly Collection.)

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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We have wings!

14680845 1153855194695488 7958203498647265908 oWe have wings!

In case you haven’t been staying up to date with all the latest photos on Facebook of the P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen’s restorations, you have GOT to see this! The amazing vintage aviation specialists at AirCorps Aviation recently produced this great video showing the reassembly of our aircraft, complete with WINGS! This means we are very close to getting the Tuskegee Airmen back up in the air.

Keep your eyes out for an exciting upcoming announcement detailing this inspirational warbird’s return to flight!

RISE ABOVE!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Tuskegee Airmen Congressional Gold Medal appointed new home

The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. celebrated its grand opening late last month. This newest edition to the Smithsonian Institute’s network of museums has been in the works since 2003, when then President George W. Bush signed legislation creating this world-renown landmark, and putting into motion years of hard work that would go into September’s inauguration.

Part of the museum’s permanent installation is “Double Victory: The African American Military Experience.” Here, visitors are treated to important relics, including those of the Tuskegee Airmen. The exhibit features a Stearman named “The Spirit of Tuskegee,” an aircraft the Airmen had trained on during their preparation for World War II.

In 2007, the Tuskegee Airmen received the highest American civilian honor – the Congressional Gold Medal bestowed by the United States Congress. It is the highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions. The Tuskegee Airmen received the medal as a 300-strong collective group, appearing at the U.S. Capitol. The medal had been featured at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum, but is now on display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Learn more about the Tuskegee Airmen’s Congressional Gold Medal and search the “Double Victory: The African American Military Experience” collection on the museum’s website.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Farewell to our friend and hero Leo Gray

grayOriginal Tuskegee Airman Leo Gray passed away last month at the age of 92. Gray had been a longtime supporter of the mission of the CAF Red Tail Squadron and a frequent featured guest at many of the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit’s visits to schools and air shows in Florida. We have been honored to stand beside such a great role model.

Gray, born in Boston, volunteered for service in 1943. He went to flight school at Tuskegee Army Airfield where he qualified for single-engine fighters. He was then assigned to Ramitelli, Italy where he flew 15 combat missions in the P-51 Mustang, logging 750 flight hours. He served 3 years and seven months active duty, and remained in the United States Air Force Reserves until 1984. He retired after 41 years of service with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

During his military career, Gray was awarded the Air Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, a Presidential Unit Citation and the Mediterranean Theatre of Operation Ribbon with three Battle Stars. The Tuskegee Airmen collectively were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by Congress in 2007 to recognize their “unique military record that inspired revolutionary reform in the Armed Forces.”

After the war, Gray earned a Bachelor of Science at the University of Massachusetts and a Masters degree at the University of Nebraska, both in agricultural economics. For 30 years, Gray coordinated research for the USDA. He credits his military service as the catalyst that helped his civilian career by giving him the skill and perseverance to be successful.

In an interview in 2015, Gray said, “The CAF Red Tail Squadron is one of the few organizations that has a hands-on approach to opening peoples’ eyes to aviation and the history of the Tuskegee Airmen. The RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit gives young people the opportunity to find out things that might never have been exposed to.”

Leo Gray was a kind and generous man. The staff and volunteers of the CAF Red Tail Squadron were very grateful for the time he invested in sharing his inspirational story with guests and supporters. He was a true American hero for his selfless service to his country – both during the war and as a civilian.

God speed.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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