Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

'Be the best you that you can be'

by Senior Airman Earlandez Young
92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

6/11/2013 - FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Monday Fairchild Airmen gathered at the base theater to hear from a walking-talking representative of Air Force history.

Retired Chief Master Sgt. Walter Harold Richardson, an original member of the Tuskegee Airmen, hosted an all call for Team Fairchild, to share some inspirational thoughts to Airmen and his history.

Richardson volunteered to join the U.S. Army Air Corps in January 1949. During Basic Military Training, he auditioned and was selected to sing with the Tuskegee Airmen's all military traveling show called "Operation Happiness". It wasn't long after he arrived to his first duty station with the group at Lockbourne Air Force Base, which had the only all colored air base group at the time, when base leadership announced Lockbourne would be closing.

After Lockbourne was ordered close, Richardson was selected as one of 1,500 enlisted African Americans to be integrated into white squadrons to form the U.S. Air Force. He completed 30 years in the Air Force ending his career as a chief master sergeant.

"I'd like to share with you what I consider my recipe for success, and I should leave you with something to carry away as part of the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen," he said at the start of the all call.

He said the recipe for success is a very self-challenging process, and he repeated this statement a second time to ensure the audience heard him.

"You have to be convinced and determined on your own that you want to be successful."

The long-time Tuskegee Airman added, he desires to be successful and is successful because of the country he lives in.

"I live in America, and America, even with all this misunderstanding, still leaves doors open for people to walk through them and become successful," he said. "Even at this moment in life, I am still seeking the full success I was born to achieve. Success can start at anytime in life you want it to."

He said to the audience, when he thinks of success, he thinks of elementary school in the early to mid 1930's which he called the beginning of his affection for America.

"Every morning, at the beginning of the school day, we placed our right hand over our hearts and pledged the allegiance to America and sung 'My Country, 'Tis of Thee' with much undeveloped tiny voices.

"When we finished singing, we'd bow our heads, pray the lord's prayer and our school day would begin. And during those early years, the pledge of allegiance and 'My Country, 'Tis of Thee' took on more meaning for me. It meant I was a citizen of America, a country in the 1930s that was on the rise."

Throughout the all call, Richardson stressed to Airmen something he was taught in elementary school that has never left his mind after taking advantage of many opportunities, challenges and obstacles.

"Be the best you that you can be," he told them. "If you start something, finish it."

He wanted Airmen to know everything they do as servicemembers is to better America and being their best is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week task.

Richardson was animated when he pointed around the theater at Airmen and said each of you were called on to be the best that you can be for America ... America is your employer.

"Love your country, study its history and become acquainted with the song "My Country, 'Tis of Thee'," he said. "I believe everyone here will take and utilize one of these many thoughts I've shared with you.

"We have overcome things far worse than the crisis we are in today. We've come across the rigid bridge of racial discrimination, differences in gender and other things that would probably be a show stopper for others."

During his closing remarks, Richardson looked around at female Airmen in the room and gracefully said "I am so proud of you."

Female Airmen smiled with thanks.

"Women, you all have overcome some of the most difficult challenges -- more so than the Tuskegee Airmen and colored Airmen did at that time," he said. "Now, you are pilots, commanders and even generals. You've overcome some tough obstacles, and now you can be whatever you want to be in the greatest Air Force in the world."

Then he sung with the same profound voice he sung with when he auditioned for 'Operation Happiness'.

The song had many inspirational messages, but two words were said throughout the song. I believe.

And he kept singing, "I believe. Yes, I believe."

"Why do I believe," he asked Airmen.

And he answered, "Because I believe in you."

The theater 'roared' with applause.

"I thank Col. Newberry and his staff for making my stay at Fairchild truly enjoyable," Richardson said. "It's always a pleasure for me to visit an Air Force base and see the progress the greatest Air Force in the world has made since I joined 64 years ago."

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