Many influential leaders in the United States Air Force have molded the military branch that we have come to know today. These figures have each stood out with significant key elements of leadership and has fashioned a certain standard for those that have trailed after. Out of the many significant leaders, one that is to be discussed is Chief Master Sergeant (CMSgt) Fred Archer. From his early life to his time in the military CMSgt Archer faced many difficulties, many issues having the root cause of race. In spite of this disadvantage, he was able to excel in every condition that he was placed in. This legacy left by the Chief Master Sergeant, however, began with an origin.
Chief Master Sergeant Fred Archer’s story began in Harlem, New York in 1921 where he was born and raised (Duong 2011). Tong Duong states that Fred Archer’s calling into the military began at the meager age of 17 when he began enlistment into the National Guard in the 369th Infantry Regiment (2011). Even though Fred Archer was able to become an enlisted member of the military, he still felt the pressure of repression and segregation that was present in the time period he had been born into. Being an African American in the military had its drawbacks, however, it produced new opportunities for him, and caused Archer to be placed in a newly established unit set by Congress (In The Steps Of Esteban: Tucson’s African American Heritage n.d.).
The 99th Pursuit Squadron was established to assess if African Americans had the capability of being aviators and aviator mechanics (In The Steps Of Esteban: Tucson’s African American Heritage n.d.). Proving that their skin color was not tied to their abilities, and that they were perfectly capable of doing their job a name was given to these special group of men. This group of African American men earned the prestigious rights to call themselves the Tuskegee Airmen, and were the first to enter the Army Air Corps (Duong 2011). . In April 1943, under the command of Capt. Benjamin O. Davis, the 99th left Tuskegee to join the war overseas (Duong 2011). Tong Duong accounts the places that Archer and his squadron went: ‘We went into Casa Blanca, North Africa and then moved across to the desert up to Tunisia, from there to Sicily and finally Italy,’ (2011).
Once CMSgt Fred Archer completed his assignment in World War II and rose to the rank of Master Sergeant his journey was seen to be on the home soil (Duong 2011). After the war, the Master Sergeant Fred Archer was assigned to Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson (In The Steps Of Esteban: Tucson’s African American Heritage n.d.). At this assignment, Archer was unfortunately met with blatant disrespect due to his skin color. Frances Archer, Fred Archer’s wife, reported that Archer was told on arrival, ‘We don’t know what to do with you. You’ve got too much rank to drive a garbage truck’, Archer was then placed in charge of the Armament Shop (In The Steps Of Esteban: Tucson’s African American Heritage n.d.). While being transferred to the Lockbourne Air Force Base in Ohio, CMSgt saw a modification in equality in the military when President Truman issued Executive Order #9981 in July 1948, declaring an end to segregation in the military (In The Steps Of Esteban: Tucson’s African American Heritage n.d.).
His life saw brightness when he married his wife Frances on October 25, 1949 who states, “he proposed marriage and invited her to come to Tucson because ‘misery loves company’ (Duong 2011). Even though segregation had lost its clutches on the military it still existed on the American soil. The fight these African American men, thought they had left on the frontline was only the beginning. Frances Archer recounts a time she saw CMSgt face this discrimination head on: “It was time for Steve (the Archers first and only son), to start first grade. Initially the school would not accept him because of his color. Without accepting help from civil rights organizations, Chief Archer solved this problem on his own. Several weeks later Steve was accepted in the previous all White school” (In The Steps Of Esteban: Tucson’s African American Heritage n.d.).
Life for CMSgt Fred Archer was successful in the United States Air Force, Senior Airman Tong Duong states, “Sergeant Archer continued his rise through the ranks until retiring from the Air Force in 1974, as a chief master sergeant. He was the first African-American to earn the rank and the first to be nominated three times for the position of chief master sergeant of the Air Force (2011).” He was laid to rest in September of 1988 however his legacy still continues for all American’s in the US Air Force.