By Sgt. Alun Thomas
1st Cavalry Division public affairs
CAMP TAJI, Iraq - The soldiers of 1st Air Cavalry Brigade observed Black History Month with a celebration at the Taji Ministry Center, Feb. 24, with black history through music as their theme.
A montage of significant moments from black history and music was shown to the audience, emphasizing the great strides made by notable black men and women who have overcome their struggles during the last 120 years.
These struggles form the legacy of black history, said guest speaker Capt. Jason Forte, chaplain, 615th Aviation Support Battalion, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, U.S. Division-Center, a legacy that must continue to evolve.
"In order for a legacy to move forward, we must all pick up the pieces and do our part to make sure black history becomes American history," Forte said.
Events, such as President Barack Obama's election as the first black president of the United States, have been pivotal in shaping the course of the nation's history, Forte said.
"I remember a distinct moment last year when our president was elected. ... I leaned over to my daughter and said, 'You see that man? He represents to you that no matter who you are or what you look like, you can accomplish your destiny and your dreams,'" Forte said.
This was also the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who hoped to accomplish equal rights for all, not just blacks, Forte added.
"His dream wasn't that there would be black supremacy or an uprising against white people. His dream was that there would be equality for all," he said. "Because of this, we now sit in an incredible position in the United States where we have a black president and an Army that is integrated."
Attending the observance was Maj. Michael Goudeau, battalion executive officer, 615th Aviation Support Battalion, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, who said he was trained as a pilot by one of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first black aviators in the U.S. military.
"When I was 13 in junior high school, I won an FAA scholarship to go to Tuskegee and learn how to fly," Goudeau said. "My first instructor was Charles Anderson, one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, who flew [President Franklin D.] Roosevelt's wife."
Goudeau said it was a nerve-wracking experience flying for the first time, but he was soon put at ease by Anderson.
"We flew out in a Cessna 152 and he said, 'Hey, just relax at the controls,' but then the plane stalled out and started spinning," Goudeau said. "I thought, 'I've got this old guy next to me; what's going to happen?' But he taught me to be calm under pressure and it was amazing to get that instruction from him to learn how to fly."