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This team launched the first all-African American flight crew at Robins AFB

U.S. airmen and soldiers from the Georgia Air National Guard's 116th Air Control Wing, active-duty Air Force 461st Air Control Wing, and the Army's 138th Military Intelligence Company gather in front of an E-8C Joint STARS aircraft as part of a historical flight at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., Feb. 19, 2021.

NANCY GOLDBERGER/AIR NATIONAL GUARD

By JENNA EASON | The Macon Telegraph | Published: February 22, 2021

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. (Tribune News Service) — The E-8C Joint STARS aviators made history Friday when the first all-African American flight crew launched on a training mission at Robins Air Force Base.

"For me, it's a dream," said Capt. Dewey McRae, a project officer for the Heritage Flight. "I've been trying to put this together for a long time and we always were short in a few of the crew positions.

"And finally, this is the first time, combining both active duty and the Georgia Air National Guard, where we are able to have... enough African American members to represent all of the crew positions. So this is a dream, and this is just an honor and privilege so that the folks that will come behind us will see one day that it's okay to dream."

A group of more than 20 airmen and soldiers took off from Robins Air Force Base around 11 a.m. for a training mission and to honor Black History Month and the African American men and women who paved the way for them to serve.

Team JSTARS is a unique operation consisting of the Georgia Air National Guard's 116th Air Control Wing, active-duty U.S. Air Force 461st Air Control Wing and U.S. Army JSTARS 138th Military Intelligence Company. It flies the world's only fleet of E-8C Joint STARS aircraft, according to a news release.

"Today we're simply going out to honor the legacy of those that came before us, and today we're honoring the Tuskegee Airmen, as well as all of the sacrifices they made, which has enabled us to be able to do our jobs," McRae said.

Brig. Gen. Konata Crumbly, director of the joint staff for the Georgia Air National Guard, said he was happy to see captains, majors and lieutenant colonels take the initiative to organize the event. He was the first African American to serve as the wing commander for the 116th Air Control Wing at Robins AFB.

"When I first joined the Guard, we were diverse, but we weren't that diverse, and as time has gone along, we've learned to leverage diversity, and we've actually really learned that diversity is our power," he said. "We're not getting diverse for diversity sake but we're actually trying to leverage talent for our country."

Capt. Andrea Lewis, who served as the co-pilot for the training mission, made history in 2019 by becoming the first African American female pilot in the history of the Georgia Air National Guard.

"I think what I always try to express to young people is that you can go into anything that you set your mind to, especially young women," she said.

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U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Dalancy Brandford, an airborne target surveillance supervisor with the 138th Military Intelligence Company, Army JSTARS, prepares for a historical flight onboard an E-8C Joint STARS at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., Feb. 19, 2021.
NANCY GOLDBERGER/AIR NATIONAL GUARD