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Lawrence, a special operations pilot who flies the U–28A, a modified Pilatus PC–12, is one of only 255 U.S. Air Force Pilots who identify as Black or African American, out of approximately 12,961 total pilots in the Air Force (not including guard or reserve), according to the U.S. Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs Office.
Not only has Lawrence broken barriers, but he is also serving as an example for others like him, proving that if you put your mind to something, anything is possible.
In September, the Air Force reported that it is setting new diversity recruiting targets for 2021. According to Military.com, the service’s top recruiting chief said that the Air Force is working “to ensure it is recruiting a force that represents the country’s diversity, shaking up how it finds prospective members.”
When interviewed by Military Families Magazine, Lawrence’s mother, Kemiko Lawrence, shared how her son didn’t take the conventional route when it came to schooling and was successful when she allowed him to be homeschooled. “I stopped with all the worksheets and the need to do complete subjects and just let him look at whatever pictures and magazines he wanted. He was always very interested in flying and things that went fast,” she said.
With relatives and the Tuskegee Airmen serving as his inspiration, Lawrence is leading the way for other minority pilots also striving to break barriers. Lawrence recently completed his training with Air Education and Training Command (AETC) and was the first Black officer to do so. He is a member of the third graduating class.
AOPA reached out to Lawrence to find out what it’s like to be one of the country’s elite military pilots, and how he achieved his dream while also working to inspire and help others along the way.
How did you get involved in aviation?
At a young age I knew I wanted to fly. I didn’t have anyone close to me who was a pilot, but flying became a passion of mine through reading and seeing aviation-related media in magazines, movies, and TV shows. In middle and high school, I joined Aviation Career Enrichment (ACE) in Atlanta and began taking ground school lessons at Fulton County Airport. My passion just continued to grow from there.
What do you love the most about aviation?
I love the freedom. Any time I have the ability to push the throttles forward and
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