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    Tuskegee Airman celebrates Black History with DCMA Phoenix

    Tuskegee airman celebrates Black History with DCMA Phoenix

    Courtesy Photo | A cake displaying images of retired Air Force Lt. Col. Robert “Bob” Ashby, a...... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    Defense Contract Management Agency

    PHOENIX — Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Robert “Bob” Ashby shared his experiences as a pilot and one of the Tuskegee Airmen with employees from Defense Contract Management Agency Phoenix, Feb. 8. Ashby, who was also the first black pilot for Frontier Airlines, was the guest speaker for the DCMA Phoenix Black History Month ceremony.

    “I felt honored when he agreed to speak for our Agency,” said Debra Tamayo, who organized and arranged Ashby’s presentation. “I heard him speak recently at a Martin Luther King diversity awards event for Black History Month and contacted him after he announced he was available to speak at other events.” Tamayo is a procurement technician and Special Emphasis Program coordinator for DCMA Phoenix.

    “I was so happy when he agreed to speak to us - I am still smiling,” continued Tamayo, who noted the Arizona war hero broke racial boundaries during World War II. “During the ceremony, he spoke of the struggles he and others overcame with segregation and racial discrimination, first in the military and then with corporate organizations.”

    Ashby began his career with the Army Air Corps at age 17 as a candidate for the Aviation Cadet program. Ashby successfully graduated as a second lieutenant with the Tuskegee Class of 45-H and was assigned to Japan as part of the U.S. occupying force. On his arrival in Japan, Ashby wasn’t accepted at his first two flying assignments because he was black and the Army was segregated. This resulted in his removal from pilot status and reassignment to a black company in the Quartermaster Department in Tokyo.

    When President Harry S. Truman integrated the armed forces, Ashby’s pilot status was reinstated and he was assigned to Wright Patterson Air Force Base in August 1949. Over the course of his career, Ashby flew B-26's in Korea, trainers and various bombers in Europe and trained on the B-47 aircraft - eventually becoming a B-47 instructor. Reaching the rank of lieutenant colonel, Ashby retired honorably from the Air Force in July 1965, after 21 years of service.

    Ashby said segregation and racial tensions were high in the military during his time and recounted several stories of his difficulties. Despite the experiences being, “very hard to look back upon,” Ashby shared memories of segregated laundry facilities and officer clubs he was not allowed to enter. Through it all, Ashby said the professionalism and dedication of the Tuskegee Airmen as aviators contributed to the eventual end of segregation in the armed forces.

    In 1973, he became the first black pilot to be hired by Frontier Airlines and is the only Tuskegee Airman to be hired by a scheduled airline. Early in his civilian career, he again faced racial discrimination but persevered and later enjoyed his employment with Frontier with over 20,000 flying hours. Ashby acknowledged the military as well as the airlines are now examples of employers with the best equal opportunity programs.

    Today, Ashby’s work centers around working with local Phoenix youth at an annual Aviation Career Education Academy camp to help inspire aviation-related aerospace careers. He also spends his time traveling and speaking at events.

    Ashby, along with other surviving Tuskegee Airmen, received the Congressional Gold Medal from President George W. Bush in 2007.

    Valerie Edwards, DCMA Phoenix deputy director recognized Ashby with a CMO commander’s coin and letter of appreciation signed by Army Col. John S. Womack, DCMA Phoenix commander, who was on official travel during this presentation. She concluded Ashby’s presentation by thanking him for his service and dedication to his country.

    “Your service in World War II and the Korean War, while engaging with dignified determination in the underlying war on injustice and intolerance is profound” said Edwards. “For any generation, it is vital we take every opportunity to learn and understand the lessons of the past, especially those of injustice and intolerance, so we are not doomed to repeat them in the future.”

    Following his presentation, Ashby answered questions from DCMA Phoenix employees in the audience, and those watching via video teleconference. He also attended a potluck luncheon in celebration of Black History Month and posed for photos with employees and share stories with the guests.



    Date Taken: 02.09.2012
    Date Posted: 03.07.2012 14:18
    Story ID: 84879
    Location: PHOENIX, AZ, US

    Web Views: 309
    Downloads: 0