By Barney Blakeney
The Hiram E. Mann Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a gala event November 17 at the Mark Clark Hall on The Citadel campus. Lt. Gen. Stayce D. Harris, Inspector General of the Air Force Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, Washington, DC will be the featured speaker. General Harris was appointed by President Barack Obama and is the first African American female Lieutenant General (3-Star) in the Air Force. Several distinguished guests will join the celebration that includes Documented Original Tuskegee Airmen (DOTA) Lt. Col. (Ret.) Dr. Enoch “Woody” Woodhouse and Dr. Eugene J. Richardson.
The Hiram E. Mann Chapter, TAI was incorporated in 1998 in Walterboro as an education and community service organization dedicated to maintaining the traditions of the Tuskegee Airmen and preserving the legacy of the first generation of African American military aviators of World War II.
The Hiram E. Mann Chapter of TAI is a 501(c)3, non-profit organization and currently serves Walterboro, Charleston, and nearby communities. The chapter’s goal is to assist students in developing positive attitudes, character, and leadership skills. Its youth programs are centered on education and aviation and are designed to stimulate and inspire youth to improve their academic performance, character development, and citizenship. Its curriculum is based on the STEM (Science, Technology, and Engineering & Math) Educational Model.
The Tuskegee Airmen included pilots, radio operators, navigators, bombardiers, aircraft maintenance, support staff, instructors, and all the personnel who kept the planes in the air. Virtually all Black military pilots during World War II received their primary flight training at Moton Field and then their basic and advanced flight training at Tuskegee Army Air Field (TAAF). Moton Field, named for Robert Russa Moton, second president of Tuskegee Institute, was built between 1940 and 1942.
TAI strives to increase understanding of the “Tuskegee Experience” by:
–Honoring the accomplishments and perpetuating the history of the men and women who participated in the “Tuskegee Experience” as air and ground crew operations and support in the Army Air Corps during World War II;
–Introducing young people across the nation to the world of aviation and science through local and national initiatives such as Young Eagles and TAI youth programs; and
–Providing awards to deserving individuals, groups and corporations whose deeds support TAI’s mission, goals and objectives.
TAI is headquartered in Tuskegee (about 35 miles east of Montgomery), where the training of black military pilots during World War II began. Hiram E. Mann Chapter also is headquartered in Tuskegee. There are currently more than 50 active chapters of TAI located in major cities and military installations throughout the United States. The Hiram E. Mann Chapter TAI was founded in 1998 in Walterboro, SC with six founding members. Marsha Aleem served as the Chapter’s first President.
Chapter Secretary Vondeste Fishburn said in its 20-year history the chapter has annually awarded a $1,000 scholarship to a deserving student. Partnered with various corporations and aviation organizations in the area, the chapter has exposed approximately some 500 youth to the thrill and career benefits of aviation. The chapter regularly facilitates flight training and education at Walterboro Airport.
The gala will be held on Saturday, November 17, 2018 at Mark Clark Hall on the campus of The Citadel, 171 Moultrie Street, Charleston. Social Hour begins at 5pm followed by dinner at 6pm. Tickets are $75 each and must be purchased in advance.