NEWS | Feb. 27, 2018

Black History Month commemorative flight

By Sgt. Thomas Crough U.S. Army Central

An all African-American crew of Soldiers from Alpha Company, “Task Force Voodoo”, 1st Assault Helicopter Battalion, 244th Aviation Regiment, Louisiana National Guard, manned a UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter on a training mission commemorating Black History Month at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Feb. 27, 2018. 

“We just got into theater a couple of months ago and right now we are working on our tactical movement, our actions upon contact, and other evasive maneuvers in the event of contact with the enemy,” explained Chief Warrant Officer 3 Troy Willis, pilot in command, A Co. 1-244th AHB. 

“We want to train, always be proficient in our tasks and duties. And it’s also Black History Month so we wanted to commemorate that…” said Staff Sgt. Jackie Edwards, crew chief, A Co. 1-244th AHB. “We actually flew with an all-Black crew; Capt. Washington, [Chief Warrant Officer 3] Willis, Sgt. Chambliss, and myself.” 

Edwards has been serving in the Louisiana National guard for 17 years and is the first African-American female crew chief in the LANG.

“Sergeant Edwards … she’s awesome to work with … we came up through the ranks together, I was enlisted, so we knew each other prior to me commissioning as an officer. We are both E.O. [equal opportunity] officers, she’s fun to be around. Her professionalism and her work ethic is unmatched,” said Willis. 

“It makes me feel really good to be that person, to open the door and kind of set the standard. It feels awesome,” added Edwards. “My favorite part of the job is interacting and working with the awesome company that we have. We have a great group of guys and it’s just really good to work with them and to be able to go out and showcase our talents and abilities.”

Setting a positive example was a sentiment that resonated with the crew. 

“Right now, African Americans make up less than 10 percent of the aviation community. So we thought this would be a good idea … to get our career fields out there so that others can see that they can do this also,” said Willis. “For young men and women who are interested in aviation, I would just say be committed. Ensure that this is something that you really want to do. It takes dedication, devotion, it’s very … strenuous, but once you accomplish it, it’s an awesome feat.”

“I want them to know that you can be anything you want to be. You can accomplish anything that you set out to do,” Edwards said, referring to anyone who may look to her for inspiration. “… if you don’t see someone who looks like you in that role or that position, don’t be afraid. Push that mark, push the envelope, and be that first person to do it.”

The mission served as a unique way to pay tribute and bring attention to the accomplishments of African Americans past, present, and future. 

“Black History Month is important. I think it’s important for everyone to celebrate, not just African Americans ....,” said Willis. “It shows the capabilities and the comradery of where we’ve been and what we’ve overcome and where we came from. It shows there’s still growth and improvement going on in the world. There’s still a lot to do but we’ve come a long way.”