Facing Adversity

  • Published
  • By Col. James Fisher
  • Director of Safety, Air Education and Training Command
If you have served in the Air Force for any amount of time, you've likely realized that facing adversity is part of the job. Whether you are trying to ready your family for your first deployment or trying to prioritize your time between work, family, and off-duty professional development, there will be some level of adversity to achieving your goals and continuing to serve.

While serving as the commander of the 99th Flying Training Squadron, 12th Flying Training Wing, here I came to appreciate another type of adversity that some very brave Airmen before me endured. One of these Airmen was a man named Granville Coggs.

Coggs grew up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and in 1943, after two years of college, applied to join the Army Air Corps to become a pilot during World War II. He went on to complete his training and finally got into the war just as it was ending in 1945. After the war was over, Coggs went on to complete college at the University of Nebraska and then went on to medical school at Harvard. He became a radiologist and over many years, in both California and Texas, was instrumental in the development of groundbreaking centers to identify and treat breast cancer.

As he aged into his golden years, Coggs became active with the National Senior Games winning multiple gold and silver medals in the 400 meter run while well over 80-years-old.
What I didn't tell you about Dr. Coggs is that he was a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen; was the only African American in his medical school class at Harvard; was instrumental in setting up the Ultrasound Radiology Division at the University of California-San Francisco in the 70s; and has continued to challenge himself both professionally and personally for almost 90 years. While you might not have to overcome the personal and professional adversity that Dr. Coggs and the Tuskegee Airmen had to face, it is certain that some type of obstacle will be placed in your path for you to face either personally, professionally or both.

The 99th Flying Training Squadron is proud to be in direct lineage to the 99th Pursuit Squadron, one of the four original Tuskegee Airman squadrons. They proudly continue to fly the distinctive "Red Tails" that were the trademark of the Airmen.

As the commander, I was lucky enough to be able to meet, socialize and learn from these amazing heroes. One common theme among the Tuskegee Airmen was a prevalent belief during that era that African Americans didn't have the ability or capacity to become military pilots. The sheer fact that they were told "you can't" made them even more determined to succeed.

How many times in your personal or professional journey has someone simply stated "you can't?" Someone once told women that they couldn't become pilots, let alone fighter pilots; someone once said that non-rated personnel couldn't be trained to fly remotely piloted aircraft; and someone once said that amputees can't return to active duty.

I hope that you will take the opportunity to see your next adversity or challenge as a chance to prove that "you can" if you persevere. Having a lifelong attitude that believes in your abilities and a determination to succeed will help you face the next hurdle in the journey that will be filled with "you can't" moments.