Tuskegee Airman visits CENTCOM

  • Published
  • By Spc. Robert Vicens Rolon, U.S. Central Command Public Affairs

"It didn't matter if you were a pilot, a mechanic, a fueler, a supply clerk, or a cook," said the ninety-two-year-old veteran airman. Wearing a distinct red jacket and veteran airman hat, he spoke from his seat on stage with all the humility, poise and culture of a southern gentleman. "What mattered is that we worked together. Whatever needed doing, we got it done."

In the Vince Tolbert Building on MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, personnel from the U.S. Central Command had the privilege of listening to living history in the form of U.S. Army Air Forces Sgt. Thomas Newton, a Documented Original Tuskegee Airman July 9, 2021.

The Tuskegee Airmen are a group of African American military fighter pilots, navigators, bombardiers, mechanics, supply clerks, and all support personnel who fought in World War II.

The Tuskegee Airmen produced formidable fighter pilots known as the “Red Tails”, for which the distinguished group honors their legacy by wearing distinctive red jackets. The Red Tails were known for painting the tails and rudders of their planes red to help distinguish themselves from enemies. They were sought after by fellow bomber teams for their superior record in protecting them against enemy aircraft.

Over the course of the war, Tuskegee escort pilots were twice as successful as others in protecting the bombers under their charge. This was only one of many of their excellent military achievements, which also included disabling an enemy destroyer; it was so severely damaged, the ship never recovered.

Newton took the stage to answer questions about his experiences while assigned to the historic 99th Fighter Squadron as a supply clerk from 1946-1949. He also took time to celebrate Tuskegee Airmen's post-war achievements. The distinguished Tuskegee Airmen could count among their number generals, politicians, businessmen, and even an Olympic gold medalist.

A highlight of the event was when Newton’s son, Retired U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Stevie Carmack, stood and asked permission from his father to talk to the audience about how his father influenced him and his decision to join the military.

"He never pushed me,” Carmack said. "My idea was to make him proud. He didn’t have to tell me what I needed to do. I could see the type of man he was brought up to be and I can strive to be that kind of man. I only needed to look at him to see what I needed to do.”