Touching history
Tuskegee Airmen visit Team Ramstein

1st Lt. Chrystal Smith
Kaiserslautern American

Five Tuskegee Airmen visited the KMC recently and gave members of Team Ramstein the opportunity to “touch history.”

Members of Team Ramstein got the opportunity to sit down with the
distinguished black aviators – retired Air Force Col. Richard Toliver,
Lt. Col. Lee A. Archer, Jr., Lt. Col. Robert Ashby, Master Sgt. James
A. Shepard and Tech. Sgt. George Watson, Sr. – to hear history told
from the source itself.

“In high school, I read about them and their heroic deeds of having
never lost an aircraft that they escorted, and being name-requested by
the best white flyers to escort them,” said Jo Ann Mason, 435th Mission
Support Squadron deputy commander. “But, today I have touched history,
and it feels wonderful to my soul.”

What began as a program July 19, 1941 in Alabama to train black
Americans as military pilots is now viewed as a significant milestone
in American and U.S. military history.

More than five decades ago, nearly 15,000 black American – men and
women trained to serve in the roles of pilots and support staff – began
securing their place in history and its effects are ever-present, as
members of Team Ramstein realized while sitting with the Tuskegee

“I am now mature enough to understand what these men actually did; they
broke not the sound barrier, but the color barrier,” said Ms. Mason. “I
truly believe that they made it possible for me to be the first black
deputy commander of my squadron because they didn’t turn back, didn’t
say can’t and didn’t take no for an answer.”

Because of their courage, resilience and strength of mind, they
shattered a glass ceiling that not only hindered a race, but delayed
the growth of a nation. And for their actions, many are very grateful,
especially Ms. Mason.

“They persevered and showed great threads of tenacity and I can truly
say, ‘they are wind beneath my wings,’” she said. “I was truly glad to
have the opportunity to thank them in person for the part they played
in making my way just a little bit easier. For if they would have
failed in their conquest, I can assure you I would not be where I am