Air Force ROTC alums return to share their knowledge with students


TUSKEGEE, Ala. (October 19, 2012) — Cadets in Tuskegee University’s Air Force ROTC program got the opportunity to learn from the experiences of several alumni who have advanced in military careers. Friday, about 20 former students gathered for the annual alumni panel in the Gen. Daniel “Chappie” Museum. The cadets got real world experiences about what happens after graduation during nearly three hours of questions and answers. 

Lt. Col. Kelly Primus, commander of the Air Force ROTC, said the event helps to reinforce the instructors’ lessons, creates a chance for mentorship and serves to motivate the students.

“This is a great opportunity. Now, these kids can relate and see where they can go. They can see success,” Primus said. 

The event covered a variety of topics including: military family issues, mental attitude, duty assignments, the value of education, success tips and race and gender. Although the percentage of minorities in command positions in the United States Air Force is small, Col. Keith Andrews, commander of the geospatial and signatures intel group at the National Air and Space Intelligence Center said the opportunities are vast in the branch. The 1989 graduate said minority service members need to be adaptable and have a positive mental attitude to rise in the ranks. 

“You got to get used to being the only one (of color) and you’ve got to be comfortable in your skin,” Andrews said. “You’ve got to say ‘I am the only one, but I am the best one.’ ”

The ability to thrive in any environment was a prevalent theme for the first hour of the event. Brig. Gen. Mark Brown serves as the comptroller for Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. The 1986 Tuskegee graduate, said it was important that the cadets keep an open mind about their duty assignments and learn to bloom in their surroundings. Brown and other alums, also encouraged the cadets to formulate a good work ethic, drive themselves to succeed and take the “Tuskegee pride” wherever they go. 

“The Tuskegee Airmen are not the result of any special privileges… the Tuskegee pride is being an expert in what you do. So much so, that your product is in demand by those who need it,” he said. “What the Tuskegee Airmen did was make sure they were the best ones. Because they were the best ones, they became the escorts for the bombers.”

Chief Warrant Officer Lori Gilbert, graduated in 2006 and works in the Pentagon. She urged the cadets to be strategic in their career ascent and to study the education and assignment backgrounds of the people who hold the types of positions they aspire to and learn what it takes to achieve that goal. 

“You got to remember that you’re not playing checkers, you’re playing chess,” Gilbert said.

Cadets listen to Air Force ROTC during a panel Friday.

Overhead shot of the annual alumni panel.

Clarence A. Johnson, standing, addresses students at the panel. Johnson is the director of the Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity at the Pentagon. Brig. Gen. Mark Brown is seated on the left and Col. Keith Andrews is seated on the right.

©2012 Tuskegee University

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