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Conquering Barriers: Dobbins' Chiefs Discuss Opportunities, Past and Present

Chief Master Sergeants pay tribute to Fred Archer, a member of the Army Air Corps and Tuskegee Airman, who overcame hurdles and conquered barriers to become one of the first African Americans to achieve the highest enlisted rank.

by Master Sgts. Stan Coleman, Travon Dennis and James Branch, and Senior Airman Danielle Campbell Purnell, 94th Airlift Wing Public Affairs,

"I joined the military to experience new things and travel," said Chief Master Sgt. Gregory L. Gamble, chief of transportation , Headquarters 22nd Air Force who has been stationed at Dobbins since 1980.

He said the main goal he set for himself was to put forth his best.

"Initially making chief was not one of my goals," Gamble said. "Once I decided to join the Reserve after I completed four years of active duty, I challenged myself to reach the highest heights."

Gamble said he realized achieving the highest enlisted rank, an accomplishment that approximately one percent of members of the Air Force will achieve, was attainable when he was promoted to the rank of Master Sgt.

Likewise, Chief Master Sgt. Sandra A. Wright, superintendent of the 94th Mission Support Group, who has been stationed at Dobbins since 1981, said she joined the military to follow her father's footsteps.

She said at that time she never fathomed attaining the rank of chief.

"Early on, my expectation was, if I at least made it to Master Sgt., I was doing well," she said.

Both Gamble and Wright are great examples of how hard work and dedication will pay off.

Several decades before them, Fred Archer, member of the Army Air Corps and Tuskegee Airman, overcame hurdles and conquered barriers to become one of the first African Americans to achieve the highest enlisted rank.

His story is one of encouragement that reminds its audience to take advantage of opportunities provided.

"The story of Fred Archer is one of this country's shining examples of unwavering human spirit, amazing courage and abounding resiliency," said Wright.

Archer was born in New York in 1921 and began his military career when he was 17 years old.  He initially entered the New York National Guard, serving as an infantry troop.

Two years later, he went on active duty, joining the racially segregated Army Air Corps (which later became the U.S. Air Force).

One of the many documented accounts highlighting Archer's persistence occurred when he was stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. when he enrolled his son in an all white elementary school after initially being turned away.

Archer's character and dedication paved the way for him to continuously get the most out of his career.

"Although the Air Force has come a long way, persistence is key in getting the most out of your career," said Wright. "Opportunities within the military are better than ever before, and I encourage each of our Airmen to take advantage of
them."

"Statistics have shown that only about half of servicemembers take full advantages of the education opportunities offered to them," Wright said.

Fred Archer was provided several opportunities to make history throughout his life.

Based on the 1925 War Department study, military officials doubted African Americans' ability to operate and maintain aircraft, and shied away from offering them technical jobs related to aviation.

In 1941, Congress created the 99th Pursuit Squadron, an all African American fighter unit that would later be known as the Tuskegee Airmen. Archer was assigned to the 99th early in his career where he served on the pilots' support crew. The squadron would go on to win several awards and receive many accolades.

"The story of Archer and the Tuskegee Airmen is not only black history, but American history," said Wright. "Their story reminds each of us to do what we can to transform obstacles into opportunities. Every task you are given during your career is an opportunity to shine."

It is on the shoulders of Chief Archer and other great Airmen that current servicemembers now stand, regardless of race.

Archer served 33 years in the military. During this time he supported multiple contingency operations including World War II, the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War. He would go on to be nominated for the position of Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force on three separate occasions.

"He proved that under any circumstance, you must always reach for the top," said Gamble. "You will never get to the top if you don't reach for it."

Archer continued to serve his community after his retirement years until he died in 1988.

In 1978, he became director of the "A" Mountain Neighborhood Center, now known as the Fred Archer Neighborhood Center, a recreation center with stateof- the-art weight rooms, a year-round swimming pool, a covered basketball court that offers youth and teen mentorship programs.

Both Gamble and Wright believe that like Archer, all Airmen should take advantage of the opportunities they are given and use them to enrich the lives of others.

Both made commitments to themselves, that they would strive to make a difference for upcoming Airmen.

"To overcome challenging situations, I often remind our Airmen to remain positive, believe in themselves and not to dwell on situations that are out of their control," said Gamble.

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