Scott Air Force Base News

Gen. McDew breaks down barriers in pursuit of excellence

Gen. Darren W. McDew, commander of United States Transportation Command, addresses the attendees at the African American History Month Luncheon. McDew was guest speaker at the event.
Gen. Darren W. McDew, commander of United States Transportation Command, addresses the attendees at the African American History Month Luncheon. McDew was guest speaker at the event.

Scott Air Force Base held a luncheon Feb. 10 to “Remember, Reflect, Foster and Celebrate” African American heritage, with the theme of “Breaking Down Barriers in the Pursuit of Excellence.”

The guest speaker, Gen. Darren W. McDew, commander of U.S. Transportation Command, has spent his 34-year Air Force career embracing that very concept.

“We should all be humble, gracious and thankful,” said McDew. “Be thankful when you don’t know something, for it gives you opportunities to learn. Be thankful for the difficult times because it’s during those times that you grow. Be thankful when you are tired and weary because it means you’ve made a difference ... and all of these things can become your blessing.”

McDew began his career in 1982 after graduating from Virginia Military Institute. Since then he’s had 19 assignments, including Air Force Aide to the President and service as the Director of Air Force Public Affairs. He is the first and only officer to have led four separate commands on Scott AFB: 375th Airlift Wing commander in 2002; 18th Air Force vice commander in 2006; Air Mobility Command commander in 2014; and his current position as commander of USTC since 2015.

Success is about character and has nothing to do with where you come from, it’s about where you are determined to go. It’s about dreaming big and working hard to get the opportunities to succeed.

Gen. Darren W. McDew, commander of United States Transportation Command

“As the ‘Father of AMC’s Showcase Wing,’ he established the foundation for what is today’s AMC premier installation,” said Capt. Dante Earle, the event emcee.

McDew is also only one of six African-American officers to attain the rank of a 4-star general. According to the Air Force Personnel Center, only 14 percent of the Air Force military members are black or African American.

“Success is about character and has nothing to do with where you come from, it’s about where you are determined to go,” said McDew. “It’s about dreaming big and working hard to get the opportunities to succeed.”

He was born in the 1960s on an Air Force base and lived in multiple oversees location as a child, sheltered from the segregation and racism in the United States during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. The first time he encountered segregation was when the family moved back to the United States with an assignment to Mississippi, and said he couldn’t understand why this form of racism existed.

At the time he was in the fourth grade attending Hazlehurst High School, an all-black school; the only one in the county at that time which taught students from kindergarten to 12th grade. This was the same school that his parents had attended, and he was surprised to learn that the principal and teachers knew them and that segregation had been going on for that long.

McDew began his career in 1982 after graduating from Virginia Military Institute. Since then he’s had 19 assignments, including Air Force Aide to the President and service as the Director of Air Force Public Affairs. He is the first and only officer to have led four separate commands on Scott AFB: 375th Airlift Wing commander in 2002; 18th Air Force vice commander in 2006; Air Mobility Command commander in 2014; and his current position as commander of USTC since 2015.

Teachers in his life saw his potential because he excelled in academics, performing at levels above those around him. He said he attributes his success in academics because of the desegregated environment of the Department of Defense school systems where he had access to libraries and sports, for example, no matter his skin color.

He said there were many along the way who mentored him. For example, when he was 12 years old, a retired master sergeant who was the coach of his basketball team, taught him about character and leadership in life.

“He taught me that it was not just important to do well on the court, it was important to do well in the classroom. And he challenged me in both of these,” said McDew.

During college at VMI, he said he was told by one of the senior ROTC students that “some people are made to lead and others aren’t” inferring, he believed, that skin color played a part in one’s success. McDew chose to focus on the second statement the student said “find the place where you can contribute.” He determined his own path to success to become the first African American to lead the corps of cadets and later inducted into VMI’s Air Force Hall of Fame.

“The key is to be prepared no matter what lies in front of you at the time,” said McDew. “You can choose (if) the path is over or you can decide (if) it’s just beginning.”

At the event, multiple coworkers and friends gave testimonials of how Gen. McDew has broken down barriers and how he inspired others to lead as well.

“I remember when they changed the picture of U.S. Transportation Command’s commander to General McDew’s picture,” said Staff Sgt. James Devlin-Braswell, 35th Aerial Port Squadron. “It was a very proud moment for me, and I had never even met the man. I just felt like it could be me some day.”

We should all be humble, gracious and thankful. Be thankful when you don’t know something, for it gives you opportunities to learn.

Gen. Darren W. McDew, commander of United States Transportation Command

Brig. Gen. Steven Berryhill, TRANSCOM deputy director, Operations and Plans, had worked with McDew earlier in his career as an instructor at the KC-135 Combat Crew Training Squadron at Castle AFB, Calif., and he said, “(Then) Capt. Darren McDew made quite an influence on his students. In the two years that we spent on the flight line, there were a lot of mini-Darren McDews who went out into the system to fly.” This referenced McDew’s ability to mentor others with his own “school of leadership” style.

Others who spoke shared stories about how he and his wife, Evelyn, inspired and affected them personally and professionally.

McDew is always the first to always acknowledge his wife’s influence for good in his career and family life, and said there’s no accomplishment that’s ever really done alone.

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