A diverse Air Force

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Brooklyn Golightly
  • 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

As part of Cope North 2023 and in honor of Black History Month, the 36th Airlift Squadron’s premiere flight from Yokota Air Base in Japan to Andersen Air Base in Guam, was generated and piloted by an all-Black aircrew on Feb. 6, 2023.

The crew participated in the annual exercise Cope North, which prepares multiple nations for Indo-Pacific air superiority, interdiction, electronic warfare, tactical airlift, and aerial refueling capabilities. 

“Representation is very important,” said Capt. Harrison Law, 36th AS C-130J pilot. “Seeing someone who looks like you, who has a similar background and experiences, in those leadership positions or jobs you didn’t consider available to you, is a reminder that your identity is valid, welcomed, and celebrated in those spaces.”

This aircrew was made up of six members of the 36th AS, who participated in every aspect of the flight, from chalk to touch down.

“There’s an individual known as Cornelius Coffey who was one of the first African American Pilots and mechanics,” said D’angelo Seabron, 36th AS C-130J loadmaster. “He taught himself to fly, founded an aviation school, and even trained some of the Tuskegee Airmen. I think it’s crucial to make people like that well-known for what they’ve done. Not only did he put his mind to something he loved, but he opened up the school for people just like him, who weren’t accepted into aviation schools in that day and age.”

Black men and women who were interested in becoming pilots during the 1920s and 1930s faced barriers that white men and women did not. Early Black pilots created their own flight schools and clubs to train others or often had to earn their license in Europe.

“I’m not the first Black pilot in the Air Force,” said Capt. Law. “Nor am I the first Black Airman to fly with the 36th, or even this airframe, but the importance of a heritage flight is to make sure I’m not the last.”

As we close out Black History Month, we look forward to celebrating all future monthly observances and recognizing Airmen of all colors and backgrounds who have made lasting contributions to our Total Force.