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Legacy Project

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Christopher Parr
  • 332d Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Leaving a legacy behind is something many aspire to do and sometimes an opportunity will come along that becomes part of a larger picture of historical significance.

Senior Master Sgt. Fernando Buitrago, 332d Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron senior enlisted leader, had the opportunity to leave his mark while expressing the heritage and culture of the Tuskegee Airmen and the 332d Air Expeditionary Wing culture in two separate acrylic paintings on plywood.

“It was an honor to get to do these pieces because it needed to express the legacy of the wing correctly, to impress on the users of the space, the Red Tail Center of Excellence and what it means to be a Red Tail,” he said.

The Legacy Project has historical significance to the wing with each of its paintings. The first, titled “Legacy of Excellence,” depicts the establishment of the 332d AEW legacy by the Tuskegee Airmen and the second, “Chasing Excellence,” merges the 332d AEW ethos with the past.

Buitrago shared his inspiration that helped guide him through the process.

The Past: The Legacy of the 332d AEW was established by the Tuskegee Airmen challenged with extreme adversity. Resolute to overcome beyond all odds, the Airmen of the 332d held strong their belief that unyielding excellence in the Profession of Arms would lead them to victory on both fronts! This would ultimately be our future “Legacy of Excellence!”

The Future: The ethos of the 332d AEW is driven by the legacy of our past. The Tuskegee Airmen; whether a pilot, crew chief or logistician, knew to overcome adversity they needed to achieve resolute excellence. Looking ahead at modern warfare, we must not be overcome by our challenges but instead choose to “Chase Excellence!”

As an active 332d AEW Top 3 member, Buitrago heard about the project concept and volunteered to spearhead the effort.

“It means a lot to me to know that in some small way I am helping inspire young Airmen and NCO’s [non-commissioned officers] to take on the banner of excellence and continue our Profession of Arms for years to come,” said Buitrago about his motivation to work on this project.

Using his background in large-scale murals and a degree in art, Buitrago created concept drawings he shared with 332d AEW Command Chief, Chief Master Sgt. Sean Milligan.  Together they worked to develop a conceptual piece that would showcase the history of the Tuskegee Airmen and the accelerating changes of the current 332d AEW with imagery from the past and present.  

“The overall intent is to ensure that Airmen who pass through this wing will have a connection to our history, purpose and accomplishments knowing they have added to this legacy of excellence,” said Buitrago

Once complete and placed in the RTCE, the paintings were unveiled to the 332d AEW Commander, Brig. Gen. Christopher Sage and the command chief on Jan. 25, 2022.

Sage remarked on how well the paintings showcase the assets of the 332d AEW and how the P-51 reflected in the pilot’s visor ties our past to our present.

“I love the reflection; it is not just the reflection of the canopy seal, but the P-51,” said Sage. “It’s about legacy and now it is about your legacy as well.”

Explaining how each Red Tail leaves a little of themselves behind while assigned to the 332d AEW, Chief Milligan remarked that Buitrago left a lasting impression with this project.

The Legacy Project brings the past and future together to showcase the proud heritage carried forward by the members of the 332d.