SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. --
SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. – The 4th Fighter Wing and Air Force Global Strike Command recently hosted Strive 4th: A Project Tuskegee and aviation inspiration mentorship initiative on Nov. 4, 2022, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina.
Project Tuskegee is a new initiative and partnership established by AFGSC commander, Gen. Anthony Cotton, and Tuskegee University aimed at increasing opportunities for underrepresented groups within local communities and Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps. This initiative allows for AFROTC cadets from various universities to be presented with opportunities available to an AFGSC Airmen. The intent is also to reinforce the historical connection between Tuskegee Airmen and AFGSC.
"All Airmen stand on the shoulders of the Tuskegee Airmen,” said Cotton. “The Tuskegee Airmen were critical to the success of bomber forces during World War II, proving that we are better when everyone has an opportunity to contribute."
The event is shaped by diversity and inclusion, opportunity focused and introduces possibilities to the underrepresented. This pioneered the focus to communities near historically black colleges and universities, targeting AFROTC and JROTC programs.
AFGSC looked at different bases across the Air Force, specifically targeting ones that had a large diverse local population. With Seymour Johnson AFB, the local community of Goldsboro and surrounding areas housing such diversity, the 4th FW was presented the opportunity to host AFGSC and Project Tuskegee with Strive 4th.
The Strive 4th event is an opportunity to work with Wayne County students as well as local AFROTC detachments to provide them a look into the mission of Seymour Johnson AFB, as well as aviation and STEM programs.
“We had multiple different stations on the flightine with two main focuses, which were three static displays accompanied with crew and maintainers, which included an F-15E Strike Eagle, a B-1B Lancer and a KC-46A Pegasus,” says Capt. Paige Burnette, 4th Force Support Squadron sustainment services flight commander. “The STEM-oriented stations where units like fire and explosive ordinance disposal displayed and demonstrated their different equipment, technologies and capabilities.”
Burnette also stated that the AFROTC received an immersive base tour to introduce and expose them to different career fields and their operations.
The participants visiting Seymour Johnson AFB for the event included 11 Wayne County middle schools, the Wayne School of Technical Arts, one computer science club from a local high school, two civil air patrol squadrons and three AFROTC detachments.
Additionally, local Goldsboro community leaders participated in the event alongside leadership assigned to AFGSC, the 4th FW, the 916th Air Refueling Wing and members from the local Tuskegee Airmen Chapter.
“In many instances, if kids don’t see it, they don’t think they can be it,” said Lt. Col. Craig Dorn, AFGSC headquarters squadron commander. “To impact and influence the youth by providing opportunity to see the greater picture of the Air Force is what we are all about. The reason why this initiative is unique and different from other big events, like an airshow for example, is participants get the opportunity to interact with equipment and aircraft, engage and talk with our Airmen, maybe realize they have the same story as someone and they can be what that Airman is one day too.”
The goal is to introduce aviation and STEM to youth at a young age, arm them with knowledge of educational expectations and requirements, and creating a head start to become academically qualified to compete for ROTC scholarships and be successful.
“We were excited about the AFROTC coming; however, a lot of excitement and focus was towards the local middle schoolers coming.” said Burnette. “If anybody took anything away from this, if even one kid got excited about aviation or STEM, then we did our job.”