In March 1941 the Air Corps announced the formation of its first-ever black combat unit, the 99th Pursuit (later Fighter) Squadron. Reflecting contemporary American custom and War Department policy, Tuskegee's black aviators remained segregated in an all-black organization. The unit was to include 47 officers and 429 enlisted men; ground crews were to train at Chanute Army Air Field, Ill., while pilots trained at Tuskegee.
Primary flight training took place in Tuskegee Institute's Division of Aeronautics, with beginning flying lessons at the school's Moton Field. Advanced training and transition to military aircraft were conducted at Tuskegee Army Air Field, which was officially established on July 23, 1941.
Col. (later Brig. Gen.) Noel F. Parrish, a white officer, commanded the installation and was well respected by his troops for his tact and concern for black airmen facing discrimination.