Commentary

February 22, 2013

African-American leaders thrive through education

Tags:
Martha Lockwood
Air Force News Service

AA
(AFNS) — It’s difficult to know when or how inspiration will strike, or who provides the personification that in our mind’s eye, we become. For some, it is a favorite teacher or an historical figure. For others, it is a parent. And for others, it may be a fictional character who helps us see how things might be. There is one constant in each example, however: education. Nobody achieves through dumb luck, but through education and application.

Della Rainey probably didn’t realize she was embarking on a career as a role model when she set out to attend the school of nursing at Lincoln Hospital in Durham, N.C. Endowed by the Duke family and accredited by the American Medical Association, Lincoln Hospital was one of the first African-American teaching hospitals. Rainey, who graduated in the 1930s, was the first African-American nurse to enter the Army Nurse Corps at Fort Bragg, N.C, getting promoted to chief nurse in 1942, and serving at Tuskegee Army Airfield, Ala., as a lieutenant. Rainey would ultimately be promoted to major, retiring in 1978. Her legacy of learning lives in the Della H. Rainey Nursing Scholarship, established by the Tuskegee Airmen Scholarship Foundation and the National Black Nurses Association.

Retired Chief Master Sgt. Thomas N. Barnes is the first and only African-American to serve as Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force, the highest enlisted position within the Air Force. Barnes entered the Air Force in 1949, as a high school graduate. Throughout his 28-year career, Barnes made the most of every educational opportunity while serving his country in the continental United States, Hawaii, Japan and Southeast Asia. He is a graduate of the Senior NCO Academy pilot class of 1973. He served as CMSAF for an unprecedented four years, working for equal opportunities for minorities, including blacks and women, and also worked to strengthen the enlisted professional military education system. He once said that he wanted to be remembered “as a role model for people who believe they can’t get there.”

For a select few, Air Force and education are synonymous. Maj. Gen. Alfred K. Flowers, the longest serving Airman at nearly 47 years, entered the Air Force right after high school in 1965. During the course of the next 10 years, he would serve his country in North Dakota, Vietnam, the Philippines, Texas, South Carolina and Greece while earning a bachelor’s degree. A year later, in 1976, he had earned a master’s degree. He was promoted to master sergeant and was approved to attend Officer Training School. In 1978, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the financial management career field. More education and promotions followed as Flowers served at the Pentagon three times, with intermittent stints at the Air Combat Command in Langley, Va., and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces at Fort McNair, Washington. When he retired, his “blueprint for success” was heralded as “a strong work ethic coupled with an earnest desire for self-improvement and a genuine concern for others while maintaining a positive attitude….”

Retired Maj. Gen Marcelite Harris, the first African-American female general, broke gender and racial barriers throughout her career as she excelled in her educational pursuits. Commissioned as a second lieutenant after attending Officer Training School at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, Harris’ early assignments were as an administrative officer. She transitioned into the maintenance field by attending the aircraft maintenance officer’s course at Chanute AFB, Ill. Her first assignment, at Korat Royal Thai air base in support of the Vietnam War, was just a prelude to her future accomplishments. She was one of the first women to be an air officer commanding at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, and in 1991 she became the first female African-American general. Even in retirement, Harris continues to serve and to learn as a member of the Academy Board of Visitors.

As we observe African-American History Month, the heroes among us, past and present, take shape through the real-world application of their never-ending educations. Each in his or her way exhibits a love of learning that is exceeded only by their dedication to duty.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Conquer fear, live your dream

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. — Are you living the dream? Do you wake up with energy each morning or do you need an energy drink to get you going? If you constantly hit the snooze button on your alarm, wake with no energy and low self-esteem, need lots of coffee, soda or energy drinks...
 
 

Leaders: Good, bad, forgotten

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas — It’s been my Air Force experience there are three categories of leaders — the good, bad, and the forgotten.Everyone reading this probably thinks they’re in the first category, but we know that’s not the case. Airmen who work for you certainly wish that were true, but not every leader’s...
 
 

Are you ready to transition out of your uniform?

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. — Leaving the military is not as simple as staying home the day after your service commitment is up. Almost 23 years ago, after a summer vacation that lasted less than 48 hours, I showed up in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with about 1,000 of my new closest friends. Fast forward...
 

 

Dear Dad: A letter to my father

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — I sat in the very back of the classroom, not paying much attention to the man in blue giving a presentation to my eighth grade civics class. He was saying something about core values, pride and doing something for the community you could be proud of. He told stories...
 
 

Leadership: Is there an app for that?

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea — The world is growing more and more dependent on technology. Even our U.S. Air Force has become automated to improve programs, processes and quality of life for Airmen. We have Facebook, smartphones, BlackBerries, MyMC2 (My Military Communities), Twitter, Facetime, Skype, webpages, Sharepoint, EMS (Evaluation Management System) and many more I...
 
 

Save your back

NELLIS AIR FORCE, Nev. — Ooh if I could only be young again! How many times have you said that due to chronic daily pain? As young individuals we take our bodies for granted, overexerting, twisting, turning, and lifting everything we can to push the limits. But when older age sets in and the wrinkles...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>