News>The legend continues; 332nd premieres "Red Tails" movie in AOR
Red Tails flashes across the screen as members of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing watch the movie during a premiere at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Jan. 27, 2012. The movie is based on the Tuskegee Airmen, who were the first African-American military aviators in the in the U.S. armed forces. Throughout their military career, the Tuskegee Airmen accumulated many accolades including 95 Distinguished Flying Crosses awarded. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua J. Garcia)
Col. Paul Beineke, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander, speaks to members of the 332nd AEW prior to the Red Tails movie premiere at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Jan. 27, 2012. The movie, which premiered State-side one week earlier, was shown to members of the 332nd, who continue the lineage of the original Tuskegee Airmen. Beineke is deployed from the Pentagon and is a native of Ames, Iowa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua J. Garcia)
Senior Airman Benjamin Puhr, 332nd Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron, Staff Sgt. Nicholas Graff, 332nd Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, and Senior Airman Matthew Goff, also with the 332nd EMXS, hold out their tickets for the premiere of the movie Red Tails at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Jan. 27, 2012. The tickets were donated by the East Coast Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Inc. for 300 members of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing. Puhr is native of Crystal River, Fla., Graff is a native of Clarksville, Tenn., and Goff's hometown is Williamson, W. Va. All are deployed from Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua J. Garcia)
Members of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing watch the movie Red Tails at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Jan. 27, 2012. The 300-seat auditorium was packed with 332nd AEW members, to include those who are geographically separated from their primary deployed location. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua J. Garcia)
Members of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing perform the "wave" to get everyone excited before watching the movie Red Tails at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Jan. 27, 2012. Prior to the movie, Airmen watched a slideshow that showcased the transition between the original members of the Tuskegee Airmen and those continuing the 332nd mission today. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua J. Garcia)
Members of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing settle in their seats prior to watching the movie Red Tails at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Jan. 27, 2012. Since wing members are carrying on the lineage of the 332nd mission, 332nd AEW Airmen were given the privilege of watching the first showing of the movie at a deployed location. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua J. Garcia)
by Maj. Jillian B. Torango
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing
1/27/2012 - SOUTHWEST ASIA -- It takes a team to be successful, and it takes a team of Airmen whose combined hard work and dedication culminate in a successful military air mission. Whether 1943 or 2012--the decade may have changed but the mission of the 332nd remains the same...ensure air superiority.
What does it take to earn the prestigious title of 'Tuskegee Airman'? According to Col. Charles E. McGee, one of the original Tuskegee Airmen and a decorated veteran of WWII, Korea and Vietnam, it takes someone who thinks of them self as part of something bigger, someone who is willing to commit to action and above all someone who won't accept excuses.
"Actions are still important...and I think that [filmmaker] George Lucas has done a great job of putting this story together and emphasizing some of the important lessons of the 332nd experience," said Col. McGee when talking about the newly-released 'Red Tails' movie. "You do the right thing with no excuses--standards are important."
The Colonel also believes that this movie will open people's eyes to the fact that history really is relevant to today's fight.
"I think it should bring home the lessons of yesteryear are still important to the tasks that are assigned even today," he said. "We need to understand our history and we need to carry forward with the lessons learned so long ago."
This is one of the main reasons that The East Coast Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. donated the money for a theater full of 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Airmen to view the initial showing of 'Red Tails' in the AOR on January 27, 2012.
"Our chapter wanted to make sure the Tuskegee Airmen of today saw the movie, to see what they are a part of, to see their history," said Lt. Col. Sara Custer, 332nd Expeditionary Force Support Squadron Commander and member of the East Coast Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen Inc.
According to Mr. Major Anderson, who was an enlisted Tuskegee Airman, the 'Red Tails' movie was true to life and vividly brought him back to the 1940s.
"The movie is about the years prior to 1944 when the Tuskegee Airmen were fighter pilots," he said. It was just after these years that the group returned from Europe to learn how to become bombardier pilots.
It was then at Godman Field, Kentucky when Anderson joined the group. Just as Red Tails of today, those Airmen were proud to do their job not only well, but the best they could do. This is why he didn't understand the historic significance of the Tuskegee Airmen until much later in his life.
"I didn't realize I was a member of such an historic group. To be honest with you, it was many years after I was discharged from the Air Force that I really learned about all of the accomplishments of the Tuskegee Airmen," Anderson said.
Anderson believes the movie 'Red Tails' paints a vivid picture of those accomplishments by combining the stories of real-life Tuskegee Airmen into its on-screen characters. Many of the original Red Tails were invited by President and Mrs. Obama to watch the film at the White House along with the actors who portrayed their stories on screen.
Though the characters are fictionalized, the Red Tails believe the actors and George Lucas brought their actual experiences to life on the screen.
"Even though it is a story, the film tells our experiences and it will give people a new insight into those experiences," said Col. McGee.
For those Airmen who aren't into studying military history, this film gives an opportunity to have a big-budget Hollywood motion picture with Cuba Gooding Jr. and Terrance Howard show us our heritage instead of the all-too-common slide presentations or dry military journals.
"This was an excellent movie and I felt like it actually connected us to what they did back then," said TSgt Mitchell Scott, 332 EFSS noncommissioned officer in charge of fitness and recreation who is deployed from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., and is a native of Clarksville, Tenn. "On a personal level, being a black American it really helped open my eyes to what the 332nd did for all of us...it made me want to go back and study my history"
Col. McGee believes that knowing your heritage and understanding the sacrifices that our predecessors made is critical for Airmen serving now.
"I think it is especially important to know from where you came and that the standards are still important even today," said Col McGee. And it is with a sense of pride that Col. McGee passes that Red Tail heritage down to the Airmen who are currently assigned to the 332nd.
"'Red Tails of today' doesn't detract from our status of yesteryear I don't mind that they call themselves that -- it is distinctive and meaningful," said Col. McGee. In fact, the colonel believes the current red tails are doing the moniker justice and had only one thing to pass along to them--in the tradition of the original Tuskegee Airmen--"Continue seeking excellence!"
1/28/2012 3:49:56 AM ET This movie was excellent and the fact that we got to see it as deployed 332nd Red Tails made it even more special. Thank you to the Original Tuskegee Airmen who helped pave the way for us today. They were great Americans who we can and should all continue to learn from.