VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Lt. Col. Kenyatta Ruffin, the 71st Operations Support Squadron commander, was awarded the Brig. Gen. Charles E. McGee Aviation Inspiration Award Feb. 3 in a virtual ceremony.
Ruffin is the second recipient of the award following original Tuskegee Airmen, retired General McGee, for whom the award is named. It was presented to Ruffin by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association as a part of the Hoover Trophy Program.
“General McGee has been a champion of freedom and flying throughout his entire life, and I am humbled to be recognized as reflecting his virtues of determination, leadership and service,” said Ruffin.
The McGee Award celebrates the commitment that Ruffin has made to inspire young aviators around the nation to keep the Tuskegee Airmen legacy alive.
“It is presented to an individual who, like General McGee, persevered to overcome challenges en route to learning to fly while inspiring others along the way,” said Elizabeth O’Connell, a representative from AOPA.
“The Tuskegee Airmen produced approximately 1,000 African-American pilots and today, there are less than 300 African-American pilots on active duty in the Air Force,” said Ruffin.
He hopes to reduce that gap by giving underrepresented youth access to the cockpit through a non-profit organization he created in 2012 called the Legacy Flight Academy. It is operated primarily out of Moton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama, the original training location for the Tuskegee Airmen.
The non-profit’s mission is to uphold and sustain the legacy of the heroic Tuskegee Airmen, all while following the slogan: “The sky’s the limit … until it’s your point of view.”
The non-profit works in tandem with partner organizations to help minorities and underrepresented youth succeed, particularly in military career opportunities.
“The concept of fighting for more than just yourself and overcoming more than just the immediate challenges in front of you has become something that has strengthened me as I’ve progressed throughout my career,” said Ruffin.
“We are America’s Air Force and it is vitally important that we reflect the nation we protect and represent our fellow Airmen who serve,” said Ruffin.