An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News : Article View
NEWS | Dec. 7, 2023

Ohio Guard Marks 75th Anniversary of Military Desegregation

By Ralph Branson, 121st Air Refueling Wing

RICKENBACKER AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ohio - The 121st Air Refueling Wing celebrated the 75th anniversary of desegregation in the U.S. military Dec. 2 and paid tribute to Sgt. Thomas Newton, a documented Tuskegee Airman.

On July 26, 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981, mandating the desegregation of the U.S. military. At that time, Lockbourne Air Force Base, now Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base, was home to the all-black 332d Fighter group under the command of Col. Benjamin O. Davis.

According to Newton, assigned to the 99th Fighter Squadron, 332d Fighter Group, at Lockbourne AFB from 1946-1949, they took the executive order in stride. 

"Some of the Airmen said it might be an opportunity for us to further our career if we integrate into the all-white units, and sure enough they did, and they succeeded," he said.

Col. Andy Powers, commander of the 121st Air Refueling Wing, addressing the large crowd of Airmen, community members, and political leaders in attendance, welcomed Newton back to the base after a 74-year absence, thanked him for paving the way and pointed out something special about the wing's KC-135 Stratotankers. 

"If you look out on the flight line, you'll see the rudder trim tab painted red in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen, paying tribute to the lineage and their stellar combat record: no bombers lost to enemy fighters under the protection of the Red Tails during WWII," Powers said.

"I always ask myself, what is it that makes America so great? The answer is always the American spirit, the American grit, the American determination and commitment that, as a nation, we will never fail," said Maj. Gen. John Harris, Ohio adjutant general. "After generations of determined Americans who will never accept failure, one of the most representative groups of that American spirit was a group that was often not accepted by America, the renowned Tuskegee Airmen."

Newton said Col. Benjamin Davis Jr., the commander of the 332d Fighter Group who became the first black brigadier general in the Air Force, was a hands-on leader who visited each squadron regularly and gave powerful speeches. 

"When we were gathered together on the parade ground and such, he'd say, 'They put us here to fail, but we will not fail," Newton recalled Davis saying. "It is incumbent on all of us to do our job, do your best, and we will not fail." 

The ceremony included an honorary U.S. flag folding performed by members of the 121st ARW honor guard. The flag, flown at Rickenbacker ANGB for 90 days and retired on the day of Newton's visit, was presented to him on behalf of the 121st ARW and the Ohio National Guard.

"I wonder how we can measure the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen. How do you measure the courage of a president who signed an executive order in a political climate that was not supportive of it?" said Harris. "How do you measure the courage of all the Americans, white and black, it took to put the Tuskegee Airmen on the field of battle, and how do you measure the grit and determination of a man like Thomas Newton?"

Newton said his time at Lockbourne AFB serving with the 332d FG was very enjoyable.

"I was around people that looked like me, had a purpose in mind and set goals, and when we talked to each other, we always left with a loving and kind spirit," he said.

As a young man, he always told himself, "I'm going to be the best that I can be, and that was taught to me at Lockbourne, and even today, I still love Lockbourne AFB."



Related Articles
Members of the Serbian Military Medical Academy tour a KC-135 Stratotanker during their visit to the 121st Air Refueling Wing at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base, Ohio, Feb. 4, 2024. As part of the State Partnership Program, the Serbians also toured the 121st Medical Group, the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, the Louis Stokes Cleveland Medical Center and Defense Supply Center Columbus.
Serbian Military Visits Ohio Guard’s 121st Air Refueling Wing
By Tech. Sgt. Wendy Kuhn, | Feb. 9, 2024
RICKENBACKER AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ohio – Five Serbian Military Medical Academy members visited the 121st Air Refueling Wing Feb. 4 as part of the National Guard State Partnership Program. The Serbian delegation included...

Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, left, chief of the National Guard Bureau, chats with Air Force Maj. Gen. John P. Hronek, the adjutant general of the Montana National Guard, during the opening ceremony at The 1636 Room at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall’s Patton Hall in Arlington, Virginia, Nov. 1, 2023. Named in recognition of the first organized militia in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1636 – the predecessor of today’s National Guard – the exhibit space runs the gamut of strategically placed artifacts, framed flags, panel displays, photographs, visual arts and replicated items.
National Guard’s Heritage Honored at Storied Army Base
By Air Force Master Sgt. Erich B. Smith, | Nov. 7, 2023
ARLINGTON, Va. – In a hallowed corner of Patton Hall at Northern Virginia’s Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, a journey through the annals of American military history awaits. An officer’s saber from the late 19th century, a...

Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, meets with the National Guard cyber team that won the 2022 SANS NetWars Department of Defense Services Cup cybersecurity competition at the Pentagon Sept. 22, 2023. Teams from all service branches took part in the two-day competition, with the Guard team taking top honors for the third consecutive year.
Guard Team Awarded 3rd Consecutive Services Cup Cyber Trophy
By Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy, | Oct. 5, 2023
ARLINGTON, Va. - A National Guard team received the 2022 SANS NetWars Department of Defense Services Cup from Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, marking the third consecutive year the Guard team...