Inspired to Inspire

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Adrian Salazar
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs

Every Airman has their personal ‘why’ for joining the U.S. Air Force. Their reasons for joining may differ but the ultimate decision to serve offers a universal connection that can be recognized across many generations of servicemembers.


For Capt. Andre Golson, 8th Fighter Squadron instructor pilot, his dream to become a pilot started at a young age.


“I joined the Air Force to fly fighter jets,” he said. “I grew up not too far from Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, and my parents would take me to the air show every year, where my passion for aviation grew into an obsession,” he said.


Inspiration can come from anywhere. It can come from family heritage, a newfound passion or an impactful event in a person’s life. Master Sgt. Talmadge Bates, 849th Aircraft Maintenance squadron production superintendent, drew inspiration from a desire to work with his hands.


“I’ve always wanted to work with my hands,” he said. “My dad guided me towards the Air Force and told me about the opportunity to work on aircraft. Now here I am 16 years later, and I’m glad I get the opportunity to share my experience with future aircrew.”


Golson and Bates’ stories, like that of every other Airman, are now part of the legacy of the U.S. Air Force. They used their experience to inspire future aviators and aircrew at this year’s Accelerating the Legacy event at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, Feb.18-19.


The event honored the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen and gave current aviators and aircrew an opportunity to inspire students from the local area who may become future aviators and aircrew.


Dr. Eugene Richardson, Jr., a Documented Original Tuskegee Airmen from World War II, attended the event and spoke to the aircrew about his experience to highlight the important legacy of aviation.


Golson recalled his experience speaking to Dr. Richardson, Jr. as a “surreal experience.”


“He is a true hero. He spoke to us about his experiences towards the end of World War II and his story of becoming a Tuskegee Airman. He knows his impact on today’s Airmen but continues to exude humbleness, and practice patience as we asked him to tell story after story. I am grateful of the opportunity to talk to him,” Golson said.


For Bates, a student’s knowledge of various F-16 Viper components left a lasting impression that will stay with him for the remainder of his career.


“There was a student I spoke to that was actually naming off the parts of the F-16, I did my best to develop his knowledge further by explaining in more detail what role each part plays,” said Bates. “Overall, there was a lot of interest in aviation and not just the pilot side of it, and I was glad to guide them towards their goals and speak to them about my experience in military aviation.”


Accelerating the Legacy aimed to preserve the culture of past aviators and aircrew and inspire Airmen of the present and future, themes that were not lost on Golson and Bates.


“These events are important to honor legacies, reinforce culture in our current Airmen, and spark the excitement of our future aviators,” said Golson. “We cannot forget the incredible sacrifices of those who’ve come before us, and we can’t neglect our responsibility to mentor and develop those who will serve after us.”


Golson and Bates’ efforts may serve as a catalyst for future pilots to grow their obsession for aviation or for a hands-on student to become a future maintainer in the world’s greatest Air Force.


“I want to thank our leadership for giving us the opportunity to attend this event,” said Bates. “I spoke to my junior enlisted members who attended and they expressed how grateful they were to see their culture represented so widely across the Air Force, and I believe they have become stronger Airmen for the future of the U.S. Air Force as a result.”