Jul 13, 2024  

Department of Aerospace Studies

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: College of Engineering

The Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) is the oldest major continuous source of officers for the United States Air Force. Its mission is to develop quality leaders for the Air Force. The Air Force Senior ROTC Program is designed to recruit, educate and commission officer candidates through college campus programs based on Air Force requirements. Units are located at 144 college and university campuses throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. Students from schools near Air Force ROTC host institutions can attend classes through 1025 separate cross-town enrollment programs or consortium agreements.

Air Force ROTC is one of the three main long-range programs designed to provide the Air Force with the bulk of its professional officer corps. The others are the Air Force Academy and the Officer Training School. The Air Force is depending on high quality Air Force ROTC men and women for much of its future leadership.


Air Force ROTC was established in 1946 at 78 colleges and universities including Tuskegee University. The ROTC program continues the previously established program of training military leaders. During World War II, the Army Air Corps contracted with Tuskegee University to conduct primary Pilot Training for Black Officers.

This was the only training site in the nation where Blacks could train to be military pilots. The 992 black military aviators trained at Tuskegee’s training complex were organized into four squadrons designated the 332nd Fighter Group. The Group became know as the Tuskegee Airmen. The Tuskegee Airmen distinguished themselves by flying 1,578 missions and 15,533 combat sorties; destroying 112 German aircraft in the air and another 150 on the ground. They also destroyed 950 railcars, trucks and other motor vehicles and even sunk an enemy destroyer by P-47 machine gun fire. Most notably, they flew over 200 bomber escort missions and had a nearly perfect record of never losing a bomber aircraft to enemy fighters. The outstanding record of black airmen in World War II was accomplished by men whose names will forever live in hallowed memory. Each one accepted the challenge, proudly displayed his skill and determination while suppressing internal rage from humiliation and indignation caused by frequent experiences of racism and bigotry, at home and overseas. These airmen fought two wars - one against a military force overseas and the other against racism at home and abroad.

These brave African-American airmen earned 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses, Legions of Merit, Silver Stars, Purple Hearts, the Croix de Guerre, and The Red Star of WWII and achieved greater accomplishments. Most notable on 29 March 2007, approximately 300 Tuskegee Airmen (or their widows) received the Congressional Gold Medal at a ceremony in the U.S. Capitol rotunda. The medal is currently on display at the Smithsonian Institution.

Although they did not receive the recognition they deserved in terms of promotion, many went on to live very distinguished civilian lives as doctors, lawyers, politicians, and educators. The late Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. retired in 1970 as a Lieutenant General. President William J. Clinton promoted him to four-star General on January 14, 1999.

This AFROTC detachment has continued to be a major source of minority leadership as evidenced by the achievements of some of its graduates. Tuskegee University has produced more African American General Officers than any other institution of higher learning. Most notably, the late General Daniel “Chappie” James, United States Air Force was our nations’ first African American four-star General.

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: College of Engineering