"Red Tails" Visit 18th MEDCOM
William H. Holloman III (left) and Alexander Jefferson, both retired Army lieutenant colonels and member of the Tuskegee Airmen, share their experiences with the crowd during 18th Medical Deployment Support Command’s observance of African American/Black History Month at the Aliamanu military reservation chapel Feb. 22.
Fort Shafter, HI - Almost daily, Soldiers get a chance to experience a part of military history in the making and to re-live history from past service members experiences.
That was the case for 18th Medical Deployment Support Command Soldiers as two Tuskegee Airmen, formerly known as the “Red Tails”, re-lived some moments in their military careers during the unit’s observance of African American/Black History month at the Aliamanu Military Reservation Chapel 22 Feb.
William H. Holloman III and Alexander Jefferson, both retired Army Lieutenant Colonels, talked to the unit about their experiences in the military, including the not so pleasant ones.
Alexander Jefferson (center), retired Army lieutenant colonel and member of the Tuskegee Airmen, signs books for Cpt. Michael Besch, incoming Headquarters and Headquarters company commander and 1st Lt. Glenda Hanna, special staff officer, during 18th Medical Deployment Support Command’s observance of African American/Black History Month at the Aliamanu Military Reservation chapel Feb. 22.
“African Americans have made many, many rich contributions to our history and we’re left of history books,” said Holloman. “Statements are still being made today about African Americans from, the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War II, Vietnam, the Korean War and even today about Iraq and Afghanistan, that are inaccurate.”
Holloman went on to talk about other negative experiences he had while serving comparing his positive relationship with fellow white service members while overseas, but coming home to the U.S. to be greeted by white and black only signs at the end of the ships gang plank.
“However, the Tuskegee Airmen’s reception in the U.S. has been much better in the last 20 years than in 1945,” Holloman said. “Our nation has changed, how we treat each other in America has changed. This is a great country be proud of it.”
The two airmen told the crowd that they went from being called the colored pilots, to the Negro pilots and eventually advance to the “Red Tails” signifying the color of their planes tails. Jefferson described being African American in the military service in those days and now as being in a game and learning how to play the game by being prepared.
“Advancement and reaching your dream comes from being prepared and pushing yourself, said Jefferson. “Challenges come, but with perseverance and will you can make it.” Holloman added, “The Tuskegee instructors didn’t have time to coddle us. If you didn’t work hard you were sent back to the Infantry.”
After getting few hands when asked who had read a certain book on World War II, Jefferson, a prisoner of war for nine months in a camp for captured airmen called Stalag Luft III after his plane went down in a southern France mission on August 14th, went on to encourage the crowd to read more about history.
“If you don’t know from whence you came, you don’t know where you are today, and you don’t know where you’re going,” Jefferson said.
“There’s no other nation in the world that looks like ours, because we’re very diverse and it was built on the backs of those diverse people,” said Col. Michael McDonald, 18th MEDCOM chief of staff.
“This could be considered a good class on what the Army calls consideration of others and it proves that the military has been on the forefront, because the armed services cannot be built on prejudices.”