The "Air Force's Black Ceiling" is a view of diversity in the Air Force from one man's over 28 years in the Air Force. This view begins with his perspectives and insights as an Air Force Academy cadet and continues with his progression through company and field grade ranks. It also includes special insights gained while serving on the Secretary of Defense's Diversity Task Force as the Deputy Director of the Defense Business Practice Implementation Board. The author's view of diversity has been bolstered by face to face interviews with five former African American Air Force four-star generals and numerous current and former African American generals in the Air Force and the Army. The author's views are also influenced by numerous discussions with former graduates of the US Air Force Academy, his work with the Tuskegee Airmen chapters and his own detailed research into the biographies of former Air Force Chiefs of Staff and former Strategic, Tactical and Air Combat Command Commanders. The title might imply that the "Black Ceiling" has been put in place on purpose by senior Air Force leaders... the reader will find out that isn't the case. The reader however will find out that there are very distinct remnants of an intricate system of exclusionary development practices, cultural practices, stereotypes and biases that have served to keep the ceiling in place for African American men throughout the Air Force's existence.
Ivan is a seasoned author with over 30 published titles. His books are available on Amazon.com, and many are available as audiobooks on Audible.com. Ivan’s Christian books give Scriptural advice on such topics as being a Christian in the workplace, being a better father, discovering your purpose, finding the “Next” step in your purpose, God’s healing power, growing in confidence, recovering from brokenness and increasing your skills and abilities in any area. Several of these books and audiobooks are also available in Spanish. Ivan’s three exceptional books about diversity in the Air Force books have garnered rave reviews and are available on Amazon (one also on Audible). Ivan has over 25 years of experience consulting, conducting senior leadership off-sites, and strategic planning sessions. He served as Deputy Director of the Defense Business Practice Implementation Board. As the Deputy, he helped facilitate Task Groups for the Secretary of Defense comprised of senior DoD civilians and retired and active Fortune 500 CEOs. Ivan is also a singer/songwriter, actor, business consultant, and inventor. He is a retired Air Force officer with five adult children and resides in New York City. He graduated with military distinction and as the Outstanding Cadet in Organizational Behavior from the United States Air Force Academy in 1986 and earned his Master’s in Management from Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia, in 1995.
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I have studied the Tuskegee Airmen. I have been to conventions, interviewed them, wrote about them, but I am still learning about these great black heroes. I recently watched an interview with Original Tuskegee Airman Lt Col James Harvey (still living). Harvey was a winner of the inaugural Air Force Top Gun trophy. In this video, I learned something new about the Airmen’s experience in pilot training.
The first class of black pilots had a washout rate that was less than the current washout rate of white pilots. That raised such consternation that they fixed the washout rate for black pilots at 10% higher than that of white pilots. This meshes with what I was told in an interview with Original Tuskegee Airman Lt Col Robert Ashby. He told me that they were washing out a lot of capable pilots who were sometimes better than him. He said it was because they didn't want more than a certain number of black pilots.
In this book, I wrote about how something similar happened to black fighter pilots in the late 1970s under Gen. Wilbur Creech. In a chapter entitled “The Great Black Out," I show the discriminatory drawdown and purging of black fighter pilots, which I believe is the single greatest contributor to the lack of black fighter pilots today.
The Air Force’s Black Ceiling
The Great Black Out
The greatest tragedy of the Creech system is that it not only excluded minority fighter pilots for development but that it eliminated the largest group of senior black fighter pilots with combat experience that the Air Force has ever seen. According to Mike Worden author of the Rise of The Fighter Generals, “Doctrinal, procurement, and budgetary shifts towards tactical airpower in the 1970s manifested themselves proportionally in greater numbers of fighter wings, aircraft, and pilots retained during defense cutbacks through the mid-1970s” (Worden, 1998). The greatest reduction of black fighter pilots that the Air Force has ever seen occurred at a time when the Air Force was in great need of fighter pilots and at a time when fighter pilots where being “retained”.
The data (see Table) on this drawdown is staggering and was provided in December 2003 by the HQ USAF Directorate of Personnel and approved for release by the Air Force Chief of Staff to the Defense Business Board. In Fiscal Year (FY) 1978 (Gen. Creech’s command tenure: May 1, 1978 thru December 31, 1984) there were 11,724 non-minority fighter pilots and 1,391 minority fighter pilots (948 Capts, 113 Majors, 153 Lt. Colonels, 79 Colonels, 3 Brigadier Generals, one Major General). In FY 1979, there were 11,526 non-minority fighter pilots and only 372 minority fighter pilots (209 Capts, 47 Majors, 29 Lt. Colonels, 11 Colonels, and zero generals). (Gen. Chappie James moved outside the Department of the Air Force). At a time when non-minority fighter pilot reductions were statistically insignificant, minority fighter pilot reductions skyrocketed.