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B-2 electronic warfare engineer continues Tuskegee legacy

(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson)

(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- You’re a B-2 pilot. You’ve been deployed for 162 days. You’re flying a night op, your last deployed mission, when a threat is detected on your radar. Your training kicks in, and you react using the proper tactics to mitigate the threat. You take a breath. You still get to come home.

That’s a scenario an Airman such as 1st Lt. Quinton Kennedy envisions when he shows up for work each day. Bringing bombers and their crew home safely, is a mission he cherishes.

Kennedy, the B-2A branch chief for the 36th Electronic Warfare Squadron, always wanted to work on a “low-observable” or “stealth” platform, especially in a way he could honor former Tuskegee Airmen.

The Tuskegee Airmen were dedicated aviators that made history as America’s first black Airmen, serving as escorts to bomber aircraft during WWII. The Tuskegee experience began in 1941, when the first military black flying unit was activated, and ended in 1949, when the last segregated all-black flying units were inactivated.

These pioneers are further known for losing significantly less bombers than any other fighter groups at the time, ultimately “bringing bombers home safely.”

A graduate of Tuskegee University, Kennedy’s passion for continuing the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen began while he attended Air Force ROTC.

 “Tuskegee was an amazing experience,” said the Waukegan, Illinois native. “It has such a rich, living, military black history.”

 He can recall many mentoring opportunities during his time in college with Tuskegee Airmen.

 During one particular encounter as a cadet, Kennedy sat with retired Lt. Col. Herbert Carter, one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, who said, “I did what I did so you could have a chance, so don't mess it up.”

 Carter died Nov. 8, 2012, at age 93.

 "It was at that moment, as a junior, I finally realized how many people had sacrificed their all so I could be allowed to serve my country as a black officer in the Air Force,” said the 27-year-old.

Over the next year, Kennedy said various people would continue to push him into creating career goals and plans. He couldn’t shake one goal, however.

“No matter how hard I thought about my goals, one goal in particular kept coming back to my mind,” he said. “I wanted to be in a place where I could contribute to the same mission they did – bringing bomber pilots back home to their families.”

 As an engineer in the 36th EWS, Kennedy has direct impact to the lethality and survivability of the Air Force’s B-2 crews, providing a capability to identify a threat, neutralize it and allow the aircrew a safe journey home.

“We generate mission data for the defensive management system on the B-2A,” said Kennedy, who plans to pursue a doctorate in software engineering. “Our job is to improve the survivability of the B-2 by enhancing the radar warning receiver on the B-2.”

Kennedy’s team first analyzes the current battlespace threats for the B-2 before designing mission data software to combat the threat. Then they test and deliver the capability to the warfighter. This involves loading the information into the weapons system and interfacing with the pilot to discuss areas for improvement.

“The survivability of the B-2 fleet is deeply dependent on the software product our team provides,” said the Airman, whose long-term goal is to start his own engineering firm.

Upon making the connection to the Tuskegee Airmen before him, Kennedy was inspired.

“It made me feel juiced,” said Kennedy. “I am extremely excited to be involved with this mission. I try to savor each moment I have in the unit.”