August 5, 2013 (by Capt. Ashley Conner) - An F-22 has been transformed into the 477th Fighter Group flagship with the words "Spirit of Tuskegee" painted across the tail, a nod to the units Tuskegee Airmen heritage.
A1C. Jermaine James, 477th AMXS F-22 crew chief, greets Col. Tyler Otten, 477th FG commander before his flight on July 31st, 2013. This was the first time tail number 07-4147 has flown after being transformed into the 477th FG flagship. The words 'Spirit of Tuskegee' painted across the tail, a nod to the units Tuskegee Airmen heritage. [USAF photo by TSgt. Andy Eichorst]
"We are part of history. Whether we realize it or not, what we do on a day to day basis is writing the pages of history," said, Col. Tyler Otten, 477th Fighter Group commander, who was the first pilot to fly the group's flagship after the paint job. "Maintaining our connection to our lineage provides a foundation on which we build. The Tuskegee heritage of the 477th is rich with courage, service and commitment, which serves as a guide to our efforts today."
Coordination began in 2011 to have the Reserve flagship tailflash painted with "Spirit of Tuskegee" to recognize the accomplishments of the Tuskegee Airmen. A flagship is a dedicated aircraft with the name of the unit commander and dedicated crew chief's names painted on the aircraft. The 477th Fighter Group was previously the 477th Bombardment Group, a Tuskegee unit activated in 1944. The group's 302nd Fighter Squadron historically was part of the 332nd Fighter Group, also known as "The Redtails" the famous all-black unit that fought both American prejudice and the axis powers in Europe.
"The group's Tuskegee heritage is at the core of our history," said Otten."The courage, dedication and patriotism exhibited by the men of the 477th Bomb Group and the 302nd Fighter Squadron serve as motivation and examples for our service today. Against incredible opposition, the Tuskegee Airmen served their country. We should strive to emulate their courage and commitment in the face of whatever challenges are presented to us today. That is the Spirit of Tuskegee."
The 477th was reactivated here in October 2007 when the group became the Air Force Reserve Command's first F-22 Raptor unit and the only Air Force Reserve unit in Alaska. The 477th Fighter Group associates with the active duty 3rd Wing to maintain and fly the F-22's assigned to the active duty.
"We have different challenges today on the national, Air Force, and personal levels yet our Airmen continue to serve. Despite our current challenges the men and women of the 477th continue to serve their country, and do so admirably. The Tuskegee Airmen changed the shape and future of the Army Air Corps of their day. As we go forward with our Total Force Endeavor, we are shaping the future of the Air Force as well. While our challenges are not as systemic as the opposition the original Tuskegee Airmen faced, we do have challenges; they serve as great examples of courage and dedication.
The new tailflash was done here in conjunction with scheduled maintenance and was completed by Low Observable technicians assigned to the 477th Maintenance Squadron.