HomeNewsArticle Display

Tuskegee Airman reflects on diversity

Retired Maj. George Boyd at his home in Wichita, Kan., Feb. 4, 2016. Boyd is a 28-year combat veteran who served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Jenna K. Caldwell)

Retired Maj. George Boyd at his home in Wichita, Kan., Feb. 4, 2016. Boyd is a 28-year combat veteran who served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Jenna K. Caldwell)

Retired Maj. George Boyd exhibits a Congressional Gold Medal at his home in Wichita, Kan., Feb. 4, 2016. Boyd is a 28-year combat veteran and member of the famous Tuskegee Airmen. Boyd received two Congressional Gold Medals, one as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen and the other as part of the U.S. Civil Air Patrol. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Jenna K. Caldwell)

Retired Maj. George Boyd exhibits a Congressional Gold Medal at his home in Wichita, Kan., Feb. 4, 2016. Boyd is a 28-year combat veteran and member of the famous Tuskegee Airmen. Boyd received two Congressional Gold Medals, one as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen and the other as part of the U.S. Civil Air Patrol. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Jenna K. Caldwell)

Retired Maj. George Boyd looks at a photo of himself in service dress when he was younger at his home in Wichita, Kan., Feb. 25, 2016. Boyd served for nearly three decades as an enlisted Airman and a commissioned officer and is currently a colonel in the U.S. Civil Air Patrol. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christopher Thornbury)

Retired Maj. George Boyd looks at a photo of himself in service dress when he was younger at his home in Wichita, Kan., Feb. 25, 2016. Boyd served for nearly three decades as an enlisted Airman and a commissioned officer and is currently a colonel in the U.S. Civil Air Patrol. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christopher Thornbury)

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. (AFNS) -- (This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series. These stories focus on individual Airmen, highlighting their Air Force story.)

It was 1944 and the U.S. was in the midst of two battles -- a war on two sides of the world and the onslaught of cultural changes on the homefront.

Meanwhile, a young African-American Soldier picked up trash on the white sandy beaches at Keesler Field, Mississippi. He had been briefed that although he was in the service and evidently may fight and die for his country, he could neither walk on this beach unless he was working nor could he swim here because it was for whites only.

Now retired Maj. George Boyd, a 28-year combat veteran and Tuskegee Airman, will never forget the hypocrisy of that order. Boyd, now a resident of Wichita, Kansas, was part of the service during the transition from the Army Air Corps to the Air Force.

Boyd served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He witnessed the roots of social equality shift within his country and his service; from the integration of the armed forces by President Harry S. Truman in 1948, to the Civil Rights movements of the 1960s.

He recalled the era of segregation; from being refused service at local restaurants to witnessing police brutality in the streets outside the gates of his duty station.

"Most of the time you stayed in the culture that you knew because it was safe," Boyd explained. "It was easiest to operate within those limitations. You lived in a cultural fear. You were afraid of doing something that would get you harmed even though you aren't breaking the law."

Boyd described some of these problems he and many other service members faced, such as not being promoted because they were African-American.

"They gave you a job, and you'd do the job, but instead of giving you the rating they gave everybody else, they'd give you just a (lower) rating," Boyd said. "Well you're not going to get promoted if they do that to you, especially if they have everybody else walking on water."

Despite setbacks, the successes of African-Americans in service, like that exhibited by the Tuskegee Airmen, brought a positive light to the social struggles that inspired a push to utilize everyone's talents regardless of race.

"The greatest strength of our Airmen is their diversity," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh. "Each of them comes from a different background, a different family experience and a different social experience. Each brings a different set of skills and a unique perspective to the team."

The Air Force developed programs and policies to ensure equality within the service, such as equal opportunity, with the mission of breaking down social or institutional barriers within the workplace.

As the government and the military put in place specific policies to prevent discrimination, society began to adjust and social changes happened gradually throughout the years.

"It's a whole lot better now because I think they are realizing people's potential," Boyd said. "That's a learning process and it takes some time. Cultural change takes place at your dinner table, in your home. The things you teach your children -- that's culture, that's where the change takes place."

Boyd served for nearly three decades as both an enlisted Airman and a commissioned officer fulfilling in a variety of positions, including detachment and squadron commander, combat management engineer and all-weather jet fighter radar intercept officer.

"I went into the service with two years of high school and came out with two Ph.D.s," said Boyd in regards to education. "The Air Force has a lot of opportunities. I think it's so important."

Boyd continues to share his knowledge with the community. He is currently a colonel in the U.S. Civil Air Patrol and recently retired command of the unit in Wichita. He spent many years promoting the importance of education and contributing to the development of youth within the local community.

Fast forward 60 years after he cleaned that segregated beach in Mississippi, Boyd is standing in a luxury hotel near what is now Keesler Air Force Base. He is standing at the window, his gaze set upon a familiar beach.

A young man once forbidden from even walking on this stretch of land because of his skin color, can now freely stroll the sandy beach in peace. He heads down to the water and takes pictures with his wife. A smile crosses his face as he realizes how far the country has progressed.

"This is the best country in the world, because in no other country do changes take place like they take place here," Boyd said . "I have a view on life that says we can do better, and we are doing better. Try your best, do your best and be the best you can be -- aim high."

Engage

Twitter
RT @173rdFW: "I may have lost everything, but thanks to the support we’ve found here, I’m going to be back on my feet inside of a few weeks…
Twitter
.@GenCQBrownJr & @cmsaf_official sat down and discussed how the Air Force will continue exempting Airmen from PT t… https://t.co/bWVig9fSOW
Twitter
SrA Mark Gonzalez describes how his job enables the B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber to support the Bomber Task Force depl… https://t.co/sceKCtM3Pz
Twitter
RT @AETCommand: Our Airmen come from all walks of life — and we are stronger for it. Staff Sgt. Kalinin, 56th Force Support Squadron ALS…
Twitter
“It's critical to have that diversity in the Air Force that we have today because it is truly through that diversit… https://t.co/RIDQDjdlCr
Twitter
F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the 18th Aggressor Squadron @EielsonAirForce takeoff in support of exercise Valia… https://t.co/cf0raGgEUD
Twitter
RT @USAF_ACC: "This test, and others like it, can shape the future of the MQ-9, as we continue to increase its relevance in great power com…
Twitter
"We cannot rest on our laurels. It is all about the people, folks, and they will guarantee our readiness, and are f… https://t.co/BsNDUSw0wE
Twitter
RT @USAFCENT: USAFCENT Airmen and coalition partners are executing missions of national, regional and global importance and Exercise Desert…
Twitter
In March 2019, @AFSpecOpsCmd received its first Block 30 AC-130J Ghostrider gunship. Referred to as “the ultimate b… https://t.co/V9FoDThYRQ
Twitter
As the Joint Force transitioned from a Continuous Bomber Presence posture in the Indo-Pacific theater to a Dynamic… https://t.co/u8JlA3GaeF
Twitter
As of August 2020, The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, aka Hurricane Hunters, has flown 64 missions into 12 s… https://t.co/CFtHJ8HDXG
Twitter
.@AFGlobalStrike tackled B-1B readiness issues head-on by readying the fleet with a roadmap to recovery over a 2-yr… https://t.co/dEfZemGKbb
Twitter
As we celebrate 73 years of the U.S. Air Force, we remember the heroes we are proud to have served with. Today we… https://t.co/3pdHX3DvIn
Twitter
Flying, fighting and winning since 1947. #USAF73 https://t.co/qM28ykPZwt
Twitter
RT @AF_Academy: Proud to fly the @usairforce flag today and every day! Happy 73rd Birthday! #YourAcademy #FamilyWeek https://t.co/hOIs1ghq7M
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: Today we honor the #heroes who knew the worst of war and the agony of captivity - those who fought for and lost their fre…
Twitter
RT @ArmyMateriel: Join us in wishing a Happy Birthday to our brothers and sisters in the United States Air Force! #DYK The Air Force was…
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,280,541
Follow Us