HomeNewsArticle Display

Nurse faced hurdles for military acceptance

Retired Maj. Nancy Leftenant-Colon pins on brigadier general for Stayce Harris during a historic ceremony.

Retired Maj. Nancy Leftenant-Colon pins on brigadier general for Stayce Harris during a historic ceremony.

Nancy Leftenant-Colon: First African-American in Army Nurse Corps and former Tuskegee Airman.

Nancy Leftenant-Colon: First African-American in Army Nurse Corps and former Tuskegee Airman.

FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (AFNS) -- Retired Army Maj. Nancy C. Leftenant-Colon, the first black nurse in the Reserve or active-duty Army nurse corps, didn't expect it to be easy.

As a Reservist, she knew upon joining the U.S. Army in 1945 that there would be hurdles, but her strength in the face of adversity created avenues for generations to follow, in both the Army and the Air Force.

It wasn't enough that she became the first Black member of the Regular Army Nurse Corps. She also served in the Air Force as a flight nurse and continued to make history as the only woman to hold the presidency of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., from 1989-1991.

The East Norwich, N.Y. native remembers her efforts to success.

As a registered nurse in the mid-1940s, Leftenant-Colon had become well aware of the austere circumstances Black women faced in pursuit of their professional training. Still, she graduated from the Lincoln School for Nurses in the Bronx, where a fair number of minority students attended. There, she saw a photo that caught her attention and spurred her consideration of the Army.

"I saw a picture of an Army nurse with her cape," she said. "She looked so good --straight and I tall. I wanted to do my part."

Leftenant-Colon said she recalled many of her colleagues' exhaust in battling the rigors of fitting into the military during such a turbulent time for civil rights. However, she endured, and with her impressive record applied for regular status as a nurse in 1948. Military officials soon approved her becoming the first Black nurse in the Regular Army Nurse Corps.

Following the Air Force's emergence from the Army Air Corps, Leftenant-Colon recalled, as a traveling Air Force nurse, the hardship of having to drive hundreds of miles out of the way in the South to stay with friends because Blacks were denied rooms at most motels.

Still, she describes her military experiences favorably, noting the quality of one's work, and not the color of one's skin should be paramount. In her career, she considered herself a nurse first, above any racial classification.

Leftenant-Colon retired and returned to New York in 1965. In Las Vegas during the August 2009 Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., convention, she participated in the concurrent promotion ceremony for Brig. Gen. Stayce Harris, the first black female to command an operational flying wing in the Air Force.

Engage

Facebook Twitter
DYK: Aircraft have lifespans! Like humans, they require check-ups in the form of maintenance inspections to prolong their ability to fly. These "checks" prevent in-flight system failures which ultimately protects aircrew and passengers. Learn more from the 86th Maintenance Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany on what it takes to correct issues so aircraft can stay airborne.
WATCH: United States Air Force pilots talk about the importance of Exercise Saber Strike 18 as they refuel over the Baltic Sea on June 18, 2018. Saber Strike 18 is a long-standing training exercise designed to enhance interoperability between the U.S. and our allies. The training focused on improving land and air operational capabilities between the U.S. and our NATO allies. (U.S. Air National Guard video by: Master Sgt. Wolfram M. Stumpf)
Check out some shots from yesterday's All-Star Armed Services Classic Championship softball game in Washington, D.C. This event, part of MLB’s All-Star Week, pays tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces. Washington Nationals U.S. Army
Air Force and U.S. Army coed softball teams render military honors during the playing of the National Anthem during the All-Star Armed Services Classic Championship softball game, Washington, D.C., July 13, 2018. This event, part of MLB’s All-Star Week, pays tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces. Washington Nationals
Great way to lead by example!
The United States Air Force is facing a pilot shortage. To help solve the challenge, the Aircrew Crisis Task Force was recently created to provide strategic direction and actionable recommendations to senior leaders on how to solve the aircrew manning crisis. FULL STORY: https://go.usa.gov/xUb3z
Your United States Air Force news: ✓ A B-52 crew assists in a search and rescue operation off the coast of Guam ✓ An Afghan pilot class graduates in the Czech Republic ✓ The Air Force is using innovative approaches to training pilots to make the process faster and more efficient
Now that’s how weathermen work! Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters fly weather reconnaissance missions into Tropical Storm Chris and Tropical Storm Beryl. http://www.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1569944/hurricane-hunters-fly-tropical-storms-beryl-chris/
The F-22 Raptor's combination of stealth, supercruise, maneuverability, and integrated avionics, coupled with improved supportability, represents an exponential leap in warfighting capabilities. The F-22 cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter aircraft. Maintaining these aircraft can involve a bit of a learning curve. Airmen at KadenaAirBase use past technology to help learn how to work with the undefeated Raptor. FULL STORY: http://www.kadena.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1567295/hard-to-raptor-head-around/
Help us out! Can you caption this photo?
The B-52 Stratofortress has sniper pods that provide improved long-range target detection/identification and continuous stabilize surveillance for all missions, including close air support of ground forces. Air Force Global Strike Command crew members on a B-52 were able to spot a historic Pacific Island style canoe so that the U.S. Coast Guard could rescue the six passengers!
For the past 60 years, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has continually helped us maintain a technological edge against our advarsaries. Together with the Air Force Research Laboratory - AFRL, a fusion of ideas is leading to newly highlighted innovations.
SOUND ON! Celebrate freedom with the sound of freedom! Happy Independence Day!
During #ASC18, our #Airmen asked: Where are we today on developing new space operators & where will we be in the ne… https://t.co/a3IGP2gpnt
During #ASC18, our #Airmen asked: How do you see multi-domain command & control integrating with our allies?… https://t.co/GzyNIWKaWg
RT @AFResearchLab: Our team is showing off how fantastic our booth is this year! So come meet us at #booth601 for knowledge on what we do a…
RT @US_Stratcom: Gen Hyten: “All of our oaths start the same way, we swear an oath to the #Constitution, to a set of ideals written down on…
#ICYMI: @SecAFOfficial discussed the significance of the 70th Anniversary of the #BerlinAirlift during a commemorat… https://t.co/MLP7m1A1d1
.@SecAFOfficial: In his time, Billy Mitchell was the advocate for the #USAF we need. Now it's up to us -- all of us… https://t.co/5nfk096dpw
.@SecAFOfficial: I want to thank all of you for what you are doing to build a more lethal & ready #USAF, to field t… https://t.co/dVv7UUM3RI
.@SecAFOfficial: Over the past 6 months, #USAF acquisition has striped 56 yrs out of planned schedules in our acqui… https://t.co/6FgjTGUeVn
.@SecAFOfficial: By December of this year we will have closed that gap to zero. #ASC18
.@SecAFOfficial: In September of 2016, the #USAF was short 4,000 maintainers. #ASC18
.@SecAFOfficial: We have an obligation to our countrymen. To tell them, as those before us have done in their time,… https://t.co/xYAyI4NPe5
.@SecAFOfficial: The #USAF we need to implement the National Defense Strategy has 386 Operational Squadrons. #ASC18 https://t.co/tuoryyPTXF
.@SecAFOfficial: So, What will it take? 386. #ASC18
.@SecAFOfficial: The #USAF is too small for what the nation expects of us. 312 Operational Squadrons is not enough. #ASC18
#LIVE: @SecAFOfficial talks the "Air Force We Need" during the 2018 Air, Space and Cyber Conference. #ASC18https://t.co/F67IXy9mQQ