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NEWS | Jan. 22, 2021

99th FTS participates in Tuskegee Airman’s 100th birthday celebration

By Benjamin Faske 12th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

Members from the 99th Flying Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph participated in a drive-through car parade Jan. 9 to honor the 100th birthday of retired Air Force Master Sgt. James Bynum.

Bynum, a documented Original Tuskegee Airman, lives at the Grandview Assisted Living Facility in San Antonio. Due to the ongoing pandemic, cars drove by the facility, waving and wishing Bynum well.

Although it’s been almost 80 years since the Tuskegee Airman last took to the skies, their heritage lives on at the 99th Flying Training Squadron at JBSA-Randolph.

The mission of the 99th FTS is to train the world’s best instructor pilots and combat systems operators in the T-1A Jayhawk aircraft. The T-1A tail is painted red to signify their heritage to the Red Tail pilots who flew during World War II.

“This is all about staying connected to our past and realizing where we came from’” said Lt. Col. Eric Peterson, 99th FTS commander. “This is an opportunity for the squadron to celebrate a man who overcame and helped break significant barriers in his lifetime. We are proud to be part of the Tuskegee Airman heritage and legacy as Mr. Bynum reaches the centenarian milestone.

Hitting the century mark is no small feat, but to Bynum, breaking barriers is what he’s always done. He first enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1941 and later joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1945 serving under then-Capt. Daniel "Chappie" James at Tuskegee Airmen headquarters at Lockbourne Air Force Base, Ohio.

“He showed his patriotism and enlisted in the U.S. Army when World War II topped the headlines and he survived the rugged conditions as he participated in the construction of the 1,600-mile Alaskan Highway through Canada that was designed to resupply troops against potential Japanese invaders,” said San Antonio Tuskegee Airmen chapter president Rick Sinkfield. 

“The Tuskegee Airmen were significant for their insistence on fighting against fascism overseas AND fighting racism here in the United States,” Sinkfield added. “They were successful at war and gave early life to the civil rights movement.”

To those who know him, Bynum’s secret of endurance consists of a nutritious diet, moderation when called for, exercise and plenty of rounds of golf. He retired from the Air Force in 1971 as a postmaster from then-Lackland Air Force Base.