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

Facebook Twitter
Ohio @AirNatlGuard, @178thWing and @179AW sent Disaster Relief Beddown Sets to Puerto Rico to aid earthquake relief… https://t.co/thmLxnZqJC
The Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s Airfield Pavement Evaluation (APE) team ensures mission-ready airfields. See… https://t.co/82900N49g9
.@GenDaveGoldfein addressed attendees @CNASdc. He was asked how to reconcile USAF's needs “of the future over the p… https://t.co/JitRS7rQwU
RT @USAfricaCommand: MALAWI: Air Forces Africa helps develop Malawian Air Force ---- “The force development program is helping us lay the f…
RT @KadenaAirBase: #ICYMI, #TeamKadena executed its first Exercise #WestPacRumrunner with joint partners focused on improved interoperabili…
RT @AirForceCE: At @March_ARB, emergency management technicians ensure our Airmen from the @163ATKW stay tactically ready. During a recent…
Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams respond to a simulated unexploded ordnance discovery and complete tasks to safely… https://t.co/k6dsZSes1V
RT @AFWERX: Take a look at all current and upcoming #AFWERXChallenges you can be a part of: https://t.co/lquAvSmyxG https://t.co/VM5ykfWIjh
It's lit. 🔥 Firefighters from 36th CES, @AndersenAFBGuam and 28 of their counterparts from Yap, Palau, Chuuk, Saip… https://t.co/SC2BR0a9C7
RT @TeamFairchild: #TeamFairchild’s 97th Air Refueling Squadron successfully completed their first mission as our newest squadron! This mis…
#MilitaryWorkingDogs have a strict diet that corresponds with their constant training regimen, but sometimes treats… https://t.co/0PWQtw7rwE
RT @thejointstaff: Meet #SEAC4 Ramon "CZ" Colon-Lopez and learn more about his role as the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman and the…
RT @AirForceCE: Welcome to the Lock Shop! 🔐 Securing everything from assets to machinery, the shop plays an integral role in the larger Ai…
Have no Fear: MilTax is here! Military OneSource offers free tax prep for active duty service members and their fa… https://t.co/8TGP8ro32o
RT @AFWERX: The @usairforce just officially announced the #SparkTank2020 selectees! Congratulations to all the teams who will be presenting…
RT @USAmbNATO: I am very proud of our 🇺🇸 @usairforce airmen from the 57th Rescue Squadron who have been in 🇮🇹 #Italy training personnel rec…
RT @DVIDSHub: The #A10 Thunderbolt II is a slow yet maneuverable aircraft capable of taking and throwing hits that would render other aircr…
RT @AETCommand: There are few missions requiring years to plan/prep, only to be accomplished in less than 6 seconds. Courtesy @AirmanMagaz
Combat rescue helicopter pilots and crew undergo intensive underwater-egress training to prepare for worst-case sce… https://t.co/Z9z1kHAmay