VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Vance pilots took to the skies the last weekend of February to celebrate Black History month and to help spread the word about the Air Force’s “Accelerating the Legacy” heritage events.
Accelerating the Legacy was developed based upon the success of the Air Force’s first-ever Diversity and Inclusion Summit in 2020 and consists of Black officers visiting traditionally underserved areas of the country.
Until this outreach effort, becoming a pilot in the Air Force might have seemed like an insurmountable dream to young members of historically Black communities. Accelerating the Legacy events are designed to bring the promise and potential of an Air Force career to a new and diverse generation.
Seven Vance Airmen brought three T-6A Texan II trainer aircraft and one T-38C Talon trainer to locations in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee during their outreach efforts.
“I never realized how much you can change somebody’s life by just showing them what’s possible,” reflected 1st Lt. Courtland White, a T-6 instructor pilot from Vance.
In Memphis, Tennessee, pilots visited the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, one of the strategic partners in the Air Force’s rated diversity improvement efforts. There they met Staff Sgt. Leon Bussey, who was recently selected to attend undergraduate pilot training to fly C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft as a member in the Air National Guard.
“This was an amazing opportunity to talk with current UPT students and instructors,” said Bussey. “I feel much more prepared and ready to excel during the challenges of UPT.”
Lt. Col. Kenyatta Ruffin, the commander of Vance’s 71st Operations Support Squadron, helped jumpstart the heritage events within the Air Education and Training Command.
“This type of engagement is critical to us becoming ‘America’s Air Force,’ where we better reflect the society we serve and emphasize the opportunities for all to serve in the world’s greatest Air and Space Force,” said Ruffin.
The high point of the trip for Vance members was visiting Moton Field, Alabama, the original training location of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II. They met the Mayor of Tuskegee, Tony Haygood, who told them, “The Tuskegee Airmen represent what’s great about America and were heroes in the Air Force. We look forward to continuing to partner with the Air Force to promote their legacy.”
1st Lt. Alex Lewit, a Vance instructor pilot, was one of the youngest pilots selected to act as an Air Force emissary.
“I had a blast going out and meeting with the ROTC and Red Tails Scholarship Foundation members to talk about my flying experiences,” said Lewit. “It was awesome flying into Tuskegee Field. It was a very significant experience to be able to fly into a place that has a lot of historical meaning and value.
“The kids had a lot of questions and we were able to give them information about what to expect in undergraduate pilot training,” said Lewit. “I think it would have been cool to have someone come talk to me like this as a kid.”
The excitement for this project was not limited to the flight crews.
“We were very proud to send Vance Airmen on the road as part of the Accelerating the Legacy campaign,” said Col. Jay Johnson, commander of the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance.
“Programs like this are the first steps we need to take to make it clear that diversity and inclusion are a very important part of who we aspire to be in the Air Force,” said Johnson. “I’d like to think we’re at the forefront of that at Vance, and it’s something we strive to be better at each and every day.”