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"IT WAS LIKE GOING TO SCHOOL" Tuskegee Airmen rule
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Real Life Red Tails, a Conversation with Living Legends: Tuskegee Airmen was held on February 22nd, 2012 at the Montgomery College - Rockville Campus. Boys to Men, a mentoring organization, sponsored the event in honor of Black History Month. The event highlighted the lives of two Tuskegee Airmen, who were pioneering African-American aviators and whose lives changed the course of our mighty nation.

First Lieutenants Wylie W. Selden and Floyd Collins spent an amazing hour with a packed and excited audience. Students, educators, staff and interested parties alike, gathered in a cramped basement to hear the Airmen’s harrowing and triumphant stories. The theme of the events theme was, that through will and determination you can hurdle insurmountable obstacles to accomplish your goals.

Real Life Red Tails, a Conversation with Living Legends: Tuskegee Airmen was held on February 22nd, 2012 at the Montgomery College - Rockville Campus. Boys to Men, a mentoring organization, sponsored the event in honor of Black History Month. The event highlighted the lives of two Tuskegee Airmen, who were pioneering African-American aviators and whose lives changed the course of our mighty nation.

First Lieutenants Wylie W. Selden and Floyd Collins spent an amazing hour with a packed and excited audience. Students, educators, staff and interested parties alike, gathered in a cramped basement to hear the Airmen’s harrowing and triumphant stories. The theme of the events theme was, that through will and determination you can hurdle insurmountable obstacles to accomplish your goals.




Lt. Collins addressed the audience next. A spry 87 year old retiree, he gleefully quipped that “everyday he is happy to wake up on the greenside of the dirt,” which caused everyone to laugh uproariously. Lt. Collins is a native Chicagoan and, like many of his peers, was drafted into the Army during World War II. He was happy to join because it was an adventure. Stationed at Fort Sheridan, IL, for his initial induction, Lt. Collins was subsequently transferred to Sioux Fall, SD for duty.

 

Picture of Tuskegee Airmen Floyd Collins


While stationed at Sioux Falls, SD, Lt. Collins was given an extensive battery of aptitude tests and physical examinations. Unknowingly, his intellect and physical prowess landed him in the Tuskegee Airman program. He was surprised and said, “It The Experiment] was like going to school.”

He successfully completed the program because he followed his instructions precisely. He went on to recount a harrowing a story of one headstrong airman who dismissed his instruction and, as a result, the airman crashed and died; a sad incident.


After his military service ended, Lt. Collins went on to hold various senior level roles at Schlitz Inc. for 25 years. Once he retired from Schlitz, he embarked upon a long and distinguished career in the United States Government. Now that his is retired again, he enjoys reading.

Amazingly the octogenarian uses a Kindle. Before he took questions from the audience, he imparted pearls of wisdom. He said, “Save ten percent of your money, learn to play an instrument, learn a second language and most importantly, play golf!”


Next, Lt. Collins answered audience questions.


Q: What was it like to be an experiment?
A: I wanted to prove that I could fly. I was determined to make it.

Q: What character sacrifices did you have to make to be a Tuskegee Airman?
A: None!


Q: How did you resolve the issue of segregation at home though, ironically, African Americans
were putting their lives on the line for freedom abroad?
A: I wanted to prove that I could do it. The idea that they said we couldn’t, built a determination
in me to show them I’d be successful regardless of the obstacles thrown in my way.


Q: Do you have advice for us?
A: Never stop learning.


Lt. Collins graciously shook hands, signed autographs and snapped pictures with his adoring admirers at the event’s conclusion. It was evident that he enjoyed sharing his stories, as much as, the grateful audience enjoyed standing in the presences of living history.  


About: Boys to Men


Boys to Men (BTM) is a mentoring program aimed at the retention of African American Male students at Montgomery College. BTM seeks to foster a greater degree of academic success and personal responsibility. It provides academic and personal mentoring. Participating students benefit from having their academic progress monitored each semester


For more information about Boys to Men, please contact:
Prof. Gus Griffin at gustavus.griffin@montgomerycollege.edu or 240-567-5090.

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