Retired United States Air Force Col Quentin Smith Jr. remembers when he was the only black man in his pilot training class. The year was 1968. At an air force base in Oklahoma, far from home, he was not only isolated from his family in Virginia, but he was alienated from his classmates for the first six weeks of his training.

“I started out feeling very alone, but I drew inspiration from what B.O. Davis Jr. and the other Tuskegee Airmen endured in service to our country,” says Smith. “I was ultimately embraced by my classmates, but the Tuskegee Airmen’s grit, determination and persistence in the face of overwhelming odds is something we can all learn from.”

As the Tuskegee Airmen inspired and motivated Smith in his 30-year Air Force career and beyond, so he has dedicated himself to help preserve and share that legacy for the next generation.

Quentin Smith speaks with middle school students about how he was inspired by the Tuskegee Airmen.

Quentin Smith speaks with middle school students about how he was inspired by the Tuskegee Airmen.

Smith has been an enthusiastic supporter of the CAF Red Tail Squadron for many years, and recently his personal support helped bring the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit to the Virginia area where hundreds of school children had the chance to see the original film “Rise Above” and be inspired by the lessons of the Tuskegee Airmen. It’s this dedication and support to the Squadron that has earned Smith the title of ‘Hometown Hero,’ a CAF Red Tail Squadron supporter who has made the commitment to bring the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit to their own community.

On it’s way to an air show, the Traveling Exhibit made an off-tarmac stop at a local school, as it does in most every community it visits. But this visit was a bit special, setting up at Stafford Middle School where Smith’s son, Mark Smith, is the principle. Representatives from the CAF Red Tail Squadron, along with the administration of the school, held a special presentation to honor Smith for his long-term dedication to the Squadron and for helping bring the Traveling Exhibit to the students of Stafford Middle School.

Quentin Smith and his wife were presented with a Sam Lyons signature print on behalf of the CAF Red Tail Squadron. He is pictured here with his son, Mark Smith, who is the principal of Stafford Middle School.

Quentin Smith and his wife were presented with a Sam Lyons signature print on behalf of the CAF Red Tail Squadron. He is pictured here with his son, Mark Smith, who is the principal of Stafford Middle School.

“I have been and will remain a supporter of the CAF Red Tail Squadron’s outreach work because if we can reach just one kid with the lessons of the Tuskegee Airmen, it’s worth it,” says Smith. “When I spoke with the students, it was amazing how interested they were and how they were really thinking about their futures. It was an example of how the Tuskegee Airmen could and do serve as role models for kids. We are truly standing on their shoulders and I am honored to be a part of this organization.”

 

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

Share:

More Posts

Charles Bussey

Charles Bussey April 23, 1921 – October 26, 2003 Class: 43-E-SE Graduation date: 5/28/1943 Rank at time of graduation: 2nd Lt Service # 0804548 Unit: 332nd Fighter Group From: Los Angeles CA “His mother worried

Read More »

Betty Jane Williams

Betty Jane “BJ” Williams 1919 – December 8, 2008 Class: 44-W-6 Training Location: Avenger Field (Sweetwater, Tex.) Assigned Bases: Randolph Army Air Base (San Antonio, Tex.) Planes flown: PT-17, BT-13, AT-6, AT-7, PT-19 Since no

Read More »

Kathryn Stark Gunderson

Kathryn Stark Gunderson 1916 – February 12, 2019 Class: 43-W-5 Training Location: Avenger Field (Sweetwater, Tex.) Assigned Bases: Romulus Army Air Base (Mich.) Planes flown: PT-19 and AT-6 Gunderson had a lifelong interest in aviation,

Read More »

Caryl W. Jones Stortz

Caryl W. Jones Stortz January 1, 1918 – February 24, 2009 Class: 43-W-5 Training Location: Avenger Field (Sweetwater, Tex.) Assigned Bases: Camp Davis Army Air Field (N.C.) Planes flown: PT-17, AT-6, A-24, A-20 Caryl “Suds”

Read More »

Send Us A Message