Former Vance wing commander flew slot, right wingman with Thunderbirds

  • Published
  • By Phill Stuart
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- In difficult times such as these, taking a look back at the outstanding Air Force leaders of the past can help provide not only a sense of stability, but also hope. One such leader is Gen. Lloyd “Fig” Newton.

Born on Christmas Eve 1942, Newton was a fighter pilot during the Vietnam War; was the first African-American pilot in the U.S. Air Force Aerial Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds; and was wing commander for the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance Air Force Base.

Newton, originally from Ridgeland, South Carolina, attended Tennessee State University as part of the Air Force ROTC program, graduating in 1966. He received his commission into the U.S. Air Force.

In 1967, Newton received his wings after competing pilot training at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona, and then went to F-4D qualification training at George Air Force Base, California.

After completing training, Newton joined the war effort in Vietnam as an F-4 pilot and weapon systems operator at Da Nang Air Base, South Vietnam. Between April 1968 and April 1969, he flew 269 combat missions, including 79 over North Vietnam.

After his tour in Vietnam, he completed F-4D upgrade training at George AFB before serving as a pilot with the 523rd Tactical Fighter Squadron, Clark Air Base, Philippines. Then Newton became an F-4D instructor pilot at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona.

In 1974, Newton became the first ever African-American pilot to fly with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds out of Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, as a slot pilot and narrator. After attending Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia, he returned to the Thunderbirds for six more months as a right wingman and narrator.

Newton spent the next several years as a congressional liaison officer before completing F-16 qualification training. Then he served tours at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea and Hill Air Force Base, Utah. After attending the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in Washington, D.C., Newton moved on to Headquarters U.S. Air Force.

In 1988, Newton came to Vance Air Force Base, Enid, Oklahoma, to serve first as the commander of the 71st Air Base Group, then as commander of the 71st Flying Training Wing. He then continued to supervise the training of new pilots as the commander of the 12th Flying Training Wing, Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

Newton returned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force as the vice-chief of staff after stops at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, and MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. He wrapped up his Air Force career as the commander, Headquarters Air Education and Training Command, Randolph Air Force, Texas.

On Aug. 1, 2000, Newton retired from the Air Force with more than 4,000 flying hours. His decorations included the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, the Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, and the Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster.