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An artist among us
Col. Paul Beineke, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander and Chief Master Sgt. John Brinkley, 332nd AEW command chief, take time to recognize the artistry of Airman 1st Class Laura Valentine, 332nd Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron weather forecaster, at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia Dec. 12, 2011. Valentine, a native of Avoca, N.Y., is deployed from Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., and had her design selected earlier in the year, but had to wait to complete the painting until all of the materials arrived. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Paul Mann)
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An artist among us

Posted 12/15/2011   Updated 12/15/2011 Email story   Print story


by Master Sgt. Paul Mann
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing

12/15/2011 - SOUTHWEST ASIA -- A genuine opportunity to leave your mark doesn't come along very often. So, when one does come along, it helps to be ready. For Airman 1st Class Laura Valentine, she was ready and just happened to have exactly what was needed leave her mark.

"To give back to the base so future Airmen could see this and enjoy it and to let them know that we were here," was Valentine's answer when asked why she submitted a sketch for the mural competition.

The request went out September 2011 to all Airmen assigned to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing -- a request for an artist who could capture the history of the Tuskegee Airmen. Wing leadership was looking for someone who could integrate the past with the present and communicate that idea through imagery.

Valentine, 332nd Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron weather forecaster, is deployed from Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., and a native of Avoca, N.Y., had never painted a mural before and had never completed a work on this scale. The completed painting measures 100 inches wide and 74 inches tall and took more than 42 hours to complete.

"Everyone comes together all the time here, so they can see it all the time now," said Valentine, about the location of the mural. "I put a lot of research into the drawing to make the aircraft as accurate as possible and really wanted to make sure they met expectations."

Her research included studying historical P-51 Mustang photographs, as well as current illustrations of the F-16 Falcon. She looked at other F-16 paint designs and decided that the nose cone design used by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds could be incorporated into her paint scheme.

With less than a month left on her deployment, Valentine was running out of time to paint the mural and the supplies ordered by the unit had still not arrived. When they finally did, she had less than 10 days to complete the work.

"If you'd have told me a month ago that I'd have to finish this in less than a week, I'd have probably said no," said Valentine. But her supervisors and leadership worked out a schedule that would allow her to complete the mural. "I only had one day to work with the yellow paint and used it to make the nose of the F-16 stand out more."

When the final touches had been applied and the paint had completely dried, the end product was exactly what the 332nd AEW Tuskegee Airmen had wanted -- their present achievements linked directly to their historic past.

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