Laughlin observes African-American History Month

  • Published
  • By 47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
  • 47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

During the month of February, members at Laughlin Air Force Base observed African-American History Month with a variety of events.

African-American History Month, also known as Black History Month, came to be though the hard work and dedication of many parties, such as historian Carter G. Woodson, the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History, and Kent State University’s Black United Students group. President Gerald Ford officially recognized the month during the United States Bicentennial in 1976, and has been nationally celebrated ever since.

Robert Marcell, the 47th Flying Training Wing historian, said over the years Laughlin has played a significant part in African-American heritage in the Air Force and was home to some of the early trailblazers, like Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Thomas Barnes, who served as Laughlin’s first command chief master sergeant before he took the spot at the top.

“Laughlin’s very first Command Chief Master Sgt. (then called ‘Senior Airman Advisors’) was Thomas Barnes from 1970 to 1971,” Marcell said. “Chief Barnes went on to become the fourth Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force from 1973 to 1977 and the first African-American Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force, but he was our very, very first command chief!”

Also from Laughlin was Maj. Theresa Claiborne, who graduated from SUPT on Sept. 16, 1982 with class 82-08 as the first African-American female pilot in the United States Air Force. Claiborne served as a KC-135A pilot on active duty, and then joined the Air Force Reserves in Sept. 1988 where she served as a KC-135E instructor pilot and a flight commander, retiring in 2003 with over 3,000 military flight hours, going on to be a commercial airline pilot and flying another 15,000 civilian flying hours.

Laughlin was also home to the 332nd Aviation Squadron, an all-African-American training squadron before the military’s full integration in 1948 from Presidential Executive Order 9981. The 332nd Aviation Squadron, won several awards, and one member, Pvt. Ernest Fegans Jr, was awarded an Army Commendation medal for helping to capture three spies for the Imperial Japanese Army.

“Here at Laughlin the 332nd won three consecutive ‘Base Outstanding Squadron’ awards, ‘best barracks’ on several occasions and ‘best mess hall’ award,” Marcell said. “The unit was well organized and also had a 332nd Enlisted Wives club.”

Throughout the month, the African-American Heritage Committee on Laughlin has been featuring events around the base from movie night to reading to children at the base library to help spread the word about this base’s history.

“The ‘Fantastic Four’ had base story time at the library and the ‘Company Grade Officer Council’ had story time at the ‘Roberto “Bobby” Barrera” school on base,” said Channel Gosha, a member of the African-American Heritage Committee and event organizer. “We also will have a showing of ‘Red Tails’ with a chicken & waffles themed dinner, a ‘hot wings’ challenge on Thursday and a ‘Laughlin’s Got Talent’ show on Friday.”

The AAHC has partnered with several on base agencies and groups to ensure whoever is interested can participate in events to recognize and celebrate the hard working individuals who helped shape the Air Force into the force that it is today.

The final event of the month is the ‘Laughlin’s Got Talent’ and cultural clothing showcase from local artists is scheduled for Friday, Feb 27th at 5 p.m. at Club XL.