Black history: AWACS participates in Heritage Fly-in to Charleston AFB

  • Published
  • By Kimberly Woodruff 72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Members of the 552nd Air Control Wing participated in a Black History Fly-In honoring the heritage of Black aviators on Feb. 18 to Joint Base Charleston Air Force Base.

Crews with the KC-135, F-16, T-6, T-38, C-17, F-15E, and KC-46 aircraft congregated at Joint Base Charleston along with a diverse aircrew with the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control Systems.

Events planned in Charleston included meeting with local Tuskegee Airman Chapters, participating in an ROTC recruiting event, and professional development for flying Airmen of all Air Force Specialty Codes.

“History gives us perspective and strong foundations to build futures on, and some of those come with immense struggle and sacrifice — something our ancestors from the grave tell us all the time,” said Col. Keven Coyle, 552nd ACW commander. “We should celebrate that…What if the Tuskegee Airmen had not been allowed to do what they did? What if MLK, Rosa Parks, and Brown vs. the Board of Education had never happened? Would we still be here celebrating black history today?”

Capt. Trenton Dickey, 963rd Airborne Air Control Squadron air battle manager, said the event was a huge milestone in the Air Force’s timeline as there was talk of making this a Department of Defense wide event incorporating the Army, Navy and Marines.

“It is important that we as Black Airmen in the Air Force, and the military in general, know, understand and learn about the legacy of those who came before us to make everything that we do today, possible,” said Dickey. “And it is also important that we spread the wealth of knowledge and grow as an Air Force to make us all more united and stronger than ever—‘Together We Are United.’”

Dickey added that hearing from Tuskegee Airmen, Dr. Eugene Richardson Jr. was an absolute honor.

“His words of encouragement and the wisdom he passed to us, younger generation Black aviators was spot on,” said Dickey. “All he wanted to do was fly and he ensured that he worked as hard as he could to get where he wanted to go — no shortcuts, no secret formula, just hard work, but as a ‘team.’ You don’t get to where you are going without the help and support of those around you.”

Senior Airman Dencil Rolle, 965th AACS command executive, agreed, adding that hearing from Dr. Richardson was inspiring. 

“This experience felt like one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ memories that really stays with you long after the event’s conclusion,” said Rolle. “To see so many fellow Black aviators in one place, laughing and sharing their collective experiences really instilled a sense of unspoken pride. There was a moment when I looked around and thought about all the historical figures that paved the way for the progress that’s been achieved thus far.”

The AWACS plane was emblazoned with a sticker – “Tinker Air Force Base, Black History Month, Together We Are United,” and Dickey said that to have the support of the 552nd ACW and 72nd Air Base Wing was awesome.