‘Accelerating the Legacy 2023’ honors Tuskegee Airmen’s legacy through aviator development, student outreach

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Dawn M. Weber
  • 628th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

More than 600 Total Force Airmen, U.S. Air Force Academy cadets and Air Force ROTC cadets gathered for a three-day Black History Month aviation heritage event at Joint Base Charleston, Feb. 16-18.

‘Accelerating the Legacy’ is an annual event hosted by JB Charleston that honors the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen by developing today’s aviators and empowering the next generation of Airmen and aviators.

This year’s guests of honor included original Tuskegee Airman, retired Lt. Col. James Harvey and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr.

Brown gave a speech to attendees at a ‘Legacy Dinner’ to kick off the three-day event.

“This grassroots event positively impacts the entire aviation community,” Brown said. “Tuskegee Airmen believed in hard work and preparation, and they paved the way for me. Now I’m charged to ensure that all Airmen have the opportunity to serve.”

Harvey then joined Brown on stage for a fireside chat. The two aviators shared stories and discussed the characteristics that have led to their success.

“When they drafted me, that was my first experience with segregation,” Harvey said. “But I’m not a quitter.”

Harvey explained, along with his fellow Tuskegee Airmen, he went on to fight in the Korean War and to win the Air Force’s inaugural Top Gun aerial gunnery competition in 1949, although their win would not be recognized for decades.

“After we won the [Top Gun] meet, we had to clear out,” Harvey said. “We finally got our recognition in January of 2022. Each one of us wanted to be the best. When you put all those bests together, you have quite a team.”

Both aviators’ careers are marked by their commitment to service and a drive to perform under pressure.

“Personally and professionally, I play to win,” Brown said. “I thrive under pressure, and that’s when I’m at my best.”

Brown said he often thinks about the experiences of the Tuskegee Airmen and what they went through to serve.

“When you look at the Tuskegee Airmen, they believed they could do it,” Brown said. “They achieved it. They opened doors and opportunities for so many, to include myself.”

On the second day of ‘Accelerating the Legacy 2023,’ Airmen gathered for various professional development seminars on career development, diversity and inclusion, and the future of the force. Commanders, command chiefs, and first sergeants sat on mentorship panels to answer questions on a range of topics.

The final day of ‘Accelerating the Legacy 2023’ was the Legacy Flight Academy’s ‘Eyes Above the Horizon’ event. Students of all ages met with Airmen to learn about different Air Force missions and aircraft, and to experience flights on Civil Air Patrol aircraft or on the Air Force’s C-17 Globemaster III and KC-46 Pegasus.

Capt. Nic Young, ‘Accelerating the Legacy 2023’ committee president and C-17 pilot, said the goal of the event was to show students from the local area that JB Charleston cares about them and their futures.

“I hope we inspire the local community to believe that Joint Base Charleston cares and that there are so many opportunities out there for them,” Young said. “Bringing in Airmen from different bases around the world, while also allowing students hands-on experiences in aircraft, provides a unique opportunity to promote and develop future Airmen.”

Events like Accelerating the Legacy enable today’s aviators to reach the next generation through the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, hands-on STEM exhibits and flight.

“I really believe young people aspire to be what they see,” Brown said. “This is a great opportunity not only to meet members of our Air Force, but to meet some legends of our Air Force, with James Harvey of the Tuskegee Airmen.”

For those serving in today’s Air Force, and for those considering joining, Brown said he intends to create a force where everyone, regardless of race or gender, can reach their full potential.