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NEWS | Feb. 22, 2008

Retired general shares black history with Team Lackland

By Lilly Flores-Janecek 37th Training Wing Public Affairs Office

Retired Gen. Lloyd W. "Fig" Newton shared his experiences as a young second lieutenant in the Air Force during the 1960s as the country struggled through some tough social issues to a crowd of more than 370 Team Lackland members attending the African American Heritage Committee luncheon Feb. 15 at the Gateway Club.

The retired four-star general, who flew 269 combat missions in Vietnam and became the first African American Thunderbird in 1974, recalled the first African American celebration held at Clark Air Base, Philippines, in the early 1970s.

"We got together and we spread our little black culture all around. We had folks singing gospel songs. We had collard greens and sweet potatoes and all kinds of things folks claimed they didn't know anything about," the former commander of Air Education and Training Command said light-heartedly as the crowd erupted into laughter.

"It was the first time we got people to really talk to each other and to engage in a conversation about our heritage where we were different and a whole lot about where we were the same and it changed the landscape for military forces," said the retired general.

He went on to commend the Air Force for embracing diversity and challenged everyone in the audience to work together to address today's social issues such as growing high school drop out rates, crime and poverty.

"I thought his comments were awesome," Chief Master Sgt. SaRita Latham said. "It gave us time to think about where we are going and how we're going to teach and bring up our younger Airmen and junior NCOs to replace us."