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Red Tail Medics keep legacy alive

(courtesy photo)

(courtesy photo)

SOUTHWEST ASIA --

The storied history of the Tuskegee Airmen is one that most people within the Air Force know. These tales range from the heroic dog fights protecting bombers, maintainers who held the plane together, to the resolve of the Airmen themselves. But there is another story that many do not know and that is the history of those who support flyers, the medics. So as a tribute to Black History Month, the Tuskegee medics have a bit of history to share.

During WWII when the Army Air Forces were assembling the 99th and 301st Fighter Squadrons, which would later be christened the 332nd, they called upon doctors, nurses and their staffs to provide medical support. Col. Vance Marchbanks was one of the doctors who answered that call.

That, in and of itself, was testament to the man he was and in addition to that he was among the first black flight surgeons in the US Army Medical Corps, and later was the first to serve in the Air Force.

Marchbanks’ career within the military led to many policy and procedure changes. Perhaps his biggest accolade was his work on Sickle Cell trait, a hereditary disease the primarily affects persons of African-American decent. Prior to his work, the Air Force would disqualify and discharge any person known to have carried the trait. However during the Tuskegee Airman time frame, Marchbanks conducted a groundbreaking study that lead to the Air Force changing its policy to no longer discharge members who carried the trait.

That same tenacity and resolve is continued today by the modern day medics of the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group. While they may not be conducting research on the same level as Marchbanks, they are still paving the way for future medics and supporting Airmen.

Just this past month, the 332nd EMDG medics moved from their expeditionary medical tents to a new hardened facility to better provide the care that Airmen are used to back at home station. Although challenging, they also ensured that they never closed their doors and continued to provide unsurpassed expeditionary medical care.

Marchbanks legacy is one of service before self and excellence and our medics now strive to do the same.  They work tirelessly to ensure that the food and water we consume does not get us sick. Stringent procedures, such as inspecting our food facilities and latrines, are in place to minimize risks. And in the event one of the Airmen here does feel a little under the weather, they are here to provide the best care possible and ensure the mission does not suffer. Their efforts and professionalism add to the legacy and maintain the Tuskegee motto: Red Tails…Spit Fire!