Inspired by History

  • Published
  • By By Master Sgt. Erin Barr, 332nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron first sergeant
  • 104th Fighter Wing

Hello from across the pond. Each day has brought new challenges, achievements, and memorable experiences at our location. Today, I was inspired to write to all of you. This morning, I attended an event to kick off the start of Black History Month, and I couldn’t help but come back and put it on paper.

I and the other CE folks here are assigned to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, whose amazing history originates with the Tuskegee Airmen. I’m sure when you hear Tuskegee Airmen, you think about the “Red Tails,” or 1,000 or so African-American Pilots. In reality, they consisted of around 14,000 African-American Airmen including navigators, bombardiers, mechanics, instructors, crew chiefs, nurses, and support personnel.

To be part of a wing with such remarkable history and then to witness the pride our Airmen feel in this history left me feeling encouraged during such a challenging time for our country.

After attending this event, I came back to my office to check email. My internet explorer was open, and my eye was caught by a picture of an article of a female pilot. The title of the article was, “Capt. Rosemary Mariner, first woman to fly a tactical jet, dies.” I learned that Capt. Rosemary Mariner was a trailblazer for women, like the Tuskegee Airmen were for African-Americans. She had to overcome significant challenges to become an established pilot, then commander of an aviation squadron, but her efforts have paved the way for future generations.

Her commanding officer, Capt. Ray Lambert, who was African-American, mentored her how to push through barriers and succeed. Captain Mariner relayed that Capt. Lambert, “was adamant that women should never have a separate chain of command.” He experienced that, “racial segregation in the armed forces was a major barrier African-Americans had to overcome,” and believed that a unified force would provide a greater Air Force.

In a matter of two hours, I was inspired by so many people of our past. The pride I feel today, makes me proud to wear this uniform and to serve with people from all backgrounds and nationalities. We share a common bond of love for our country. That love comes without gender, color, or status. We have come a long way since WWII, when less than 10% of the forces were African-American.

In today’s environment, it is easy to lose sight of that. I encourage all of us to look to our history to find those who paved the way for us. Learn about them, tell others about them, and then honor them by your actions and your service.

I’m proud to serve with all of you.