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NEWS | Nov. 8, 2011

Keeping the spirit of the Tuskegee Airmen alive

By Airman 1st Class Tom Brading Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. is a non-profit organization with 55 Chapters nationwide and is a reminder of the history of the Tuskegee Airmen, the African-American aerial combat unit that overcame racism and segregation to fly missions throughout Europe and Northern Africa during World War II.

According to the TAI website, the organization's mission is to bring together, in a spirit of friendship and goodwill, all persons who share in the aspirations and successes of the men and women who pioneered in military aviation and in the Tuskegee experience. The group is dedicated to fostering recognition of, and preserving the history of, African American achievements in aviation and to inspire and motivate young men and women toward endeavors in aviation and aerospace careers

Locally, The Hiram E. Mann chapter, located in Walterboro, S.C., was chartered Jan. 10, 1998 and is named in honor of Lieutenant Colonel Hiram E. Mann, who received his combat training at the Walterboro Army Airfield in 1944 and flew 48 combat missions during World War II.

Mann also assisted in early efforts to establish the local chapter by contacting other Tuskegee Airmen who served in Walterboro during World War II. He also assisted in efforts to erect a monument in their honor.

Another way the Tuskegee heritage is honored is through a national scholarship program.

The Hiram E. Mann Chapter, has awarded 18 scholarships to local high school graduates seeking a career in aeronautic related fields. In addition to the local scholarship, recipients are also entered into a competition for a national scholarship. The Chapter has had several students win a scholarship at the national level.

The scholarships assist financially disadvantaged, deserving young men and women in pursuit of an education, preferably leading to careers in aviation, aerospace and science technology.

Colonel Richard McComb, Joint Base Charleston commander, participated in the recent annual scholarship banquet hosted by the Walterboro Chapter of The Tuskegee Airmen, speaking briefly about Joint Base Charleston and introducing the evening's keynote speaker.

"It was an honor to be a part of this annual event, especially to meet the dedicated people who work tirelessly to educate our nation and its youth about the Tuskegee Airmen," said McComb. "The Tuskegee Airmen are an integral part of the Air Force's history and it is important that we never forget the sacrifices this proud group of heroes made for this country."

Clemson Extension has played an instrumental part in reminding everyone of sacrifices made by the Tuskegee Airmen. Alta Mae Marvin, Clemson Extension agent, has been involved for more than 10 years and successfully obtained multiple grants to fund and expand the Tuskegee Memorial Park.

"We involved middle school students in service learning activities and research on the Tuskegee Airmen and the Walterboro Army Airbase," said Marvin. "By sharing their history with today's generation of children, we will ensure the memory of the Tuskegee Airmen lives on for generations to come."

The Hiram E. Mann Chapter office building is located at 1477 Tuskegee Airman Drive, Walterboro, S.C. The Chapter office and mini museum is located on the former site of Tuskegee Airmen Circle at Walterboro Army Airfield.

The Tuskegee Airmen monument located at the Walterboro Army Airfield in Walterboro, S.C. honors the aerial pilots, instructors, and ground training personnel who participated in combat training conducting at the Airfield. (Courtesy photo)