Inspired by Colonel Archer: Deployed Airmen honor Tuskegee great with nose art
By Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol, 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 13, 2010
SOUTHWEST ASIA -- In honor of Lt. Col. Lee Archer, a World War II fighter pilot with the Tuskegee Airmen, some members of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing took an initiative to honor the fighter ace recently with the creation of a nose art display on an RQ-4 Global Hawk.
Tech. Sgt. Jason Aucoin, 380th Air Expeditionary Wing ground safety manager at a non-disclosed base in Southwest Asia, helped initiate the idea to honor Colonel Archer who died Jan. 27 at the age of 90 in New York City. Upon hearing the news, Sergeant Aucoin recalled when he met Colonel Archer and decided to see if something could be done.
"I was lucky enough to meet Colonel Archer last year at the Tuskegee Airman Convention in Las Vegas and was moved by his and all the Tuskegee Airmen's story," said Sergeant Aucoin, who is assigned to the 380th AEW for a year.
"Wanting to pay my respect and show the family what he meant to the Air Force, I decided to e-mail all the base organizations on any suggestions," said Sergeant Aucoin, whose hometown is Hollywood, Fla. "My idea is to have the base populace sign memorial cards to pay their respect at the dining facility, which we are going to still do. Our wing command chief, Chief (Master Sgt. Suzan) Sangster came up with the idea to do the art on the aircraft and put me in contact with our deployed Global Hawk unit who ran with the chief's idea."
Once the idea reached the 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron's Global Hawk maintainers, Staff Sgt. Michael Middleton stepped in to carry the idea to fruition.
"It has been years since I have even thought about drawing, but when I was given the opportunity from by leadership, I was not going to let this opportunity pass," said Sergeant Middleton, who is also assigned to the 380th AEW for a year. "Colonel Archer and all the Tuskegee Airmen paved the way for all African-Americans who strived to succeed despite the odds. Their stories and life lessons are for everyone to carry forward and build on, coming too far and fighting with such pride for us to just let them down or forgotten is not an option."
Sergeant Middleton said there were two that inspired his design for the chalk nose art piece he completed for the Global Hawk. First was the Tuskegee Airmen's 332nd Fighter Group patch that was displayed on the jacket of one of the original Tuskegee Airmen during the memorial ceremony for Colonel Archer. The second part of his design inspiration came from the Distinguished Flying Cross which Colonel Archer received special citations from United States presidents and the Central Intelligence Agency.
"If anyone knows the Tuskegee Airmen's patch, then at your first glance you would recognize the representation of it and also combining his Distinguished Flying Cross just felt like the right way to honor him," said Sergeant Middleton, whose hometown is Savannah, Ga.
The end result was a representation honoring Colonel Archer and the Tuskegee Airmen as a whole. The RQ-4 holding the chalk drawing also took it for a ride over a combat zone in Southwest Asia. It flew on a historic combat mission Feb. 10 just like Colonel Archer did 169 times during World War II flying cover and escorting long-range bombers over more than 11 countries.
"The nose art was part of the mission where deployed RQ-4s surpassed 30,000 combat flying hours," Sergeant Middleton said. "It was a fitting tribute to a hero like Colonel Archer."
The RQ-4 Global Hawk is a high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft system with an integrated sensor suite that provides intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR, capability worldwide. The 380th AEW is comprised of four groups and 12 squadrons and the wing's deployed mission includes air refueling, surveillance and reconnaissance in support of overseas contingency operations in Southwest Asia.