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Air Force Academy gets its first African American superintendent

Three months ago the U.S. Air Force got a ground-breaking new leader.

Following confirmation by the Senate, Gen. Charles Brown became Air Force’s 22nd chief of staff, and the first Black American to lead one of the nation’s military services. 

“The historic nature of the first African American service chief should not go overlooked,” Brown said at the time. “This is a positive step forward for our military and country.”

This week, the Air Force took another step forward.

On Thursday, Lt. Gen. Richard M. Clark became the first Black American to serve as the superintendent of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., which was founded 66 years ago.

President Donald Trump nominated Clark for the job back in July. 

It was a homecoming for Clark.

He graduated from the academy in 1986, and as a student, he played linebacker on the football team. From 2010 to 2012, Clark served as commandant of cadets, a post that is responsible for supervising the character and leadership development of the 4,000 students at the academy, as well as their military training and extracurricular activities. That person also directs more than 200 Air Force and civilian support personnel, according to the Air Force. Clark also is the first former cadet commandant to return as superintendent. 

During his 34-year career, Clark has spent more than 4,200 hours in the cockpit, including 400 hours in combat zones as a pilot of B-1 bombers and the EC-135 “Looking Glass,” an airborne command post, according to Military.com. He also found time to earn four master’s degrees and landed in Colorado Springs after a stint at the Pentagon overseeing the nation’s nuclear weapons program.

In his comments at the change-of-command ceremony this week, Clark noted, “I am honored and privileged for the opportunity to give something back.”

He also told the future Air Force officers now under his tutelage, “You are my purpose for being here. The bragging right for toughness will belong to the classes who persevere during these times. It will be my greatest honor to help you achieve your dreams. Tough times do not last. Tough people do. Let’s do this.”

PHOTO: U.S. Air Force photo/Brian Kimball

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