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N.C. Air National Guard's first African-American general aims to inspire others

Brig. Gen. Clarence Ervin will officially become the first African-American general officer in the North Carolina Air National Guard's history at a Friday-afternoon ceremony.

"I am the first," Ervin told Air Force Times on Thursday. "My goal is to ensure that I won't be the last and that we will have a diverse group of individuals to choose from going forward when we are looking to promote individuals to general officers."

Ervin said he has felt a "big weight" to make general officer so that he can inspire junior officers and noncommissioned officers to become senior leaders in the North Carolina Air National Guard.

He joined the Air Force in 1979 as an enlisted airman and was commissioned in 1988 when he graduated from Officer Training School at McGhee-Tyson Air National Guard Base, Tennessee, according to the North Carolina Air National Guard, where he will now serve as chief of staff.

During his career, Ervin has served as the North Carolina Air National Guard's first mission-support group commander and vice-wing commander, he said. When he first enlisted in the Air Force, Ervin never expected to become a general officer.

"I initially joined the Air Force to complete my education," Ervin said. "My plan was basically to get out after four years – which I did – and not have any additional contact with the military. "But, of course, life events happened and things kept leading me back to the military, so I joined the Air Guard, and after a period of time, I realized that a big part of my being was to be able to serve people."

Over time, Ervin's military career become more than a job. He refers to it as his ministry.

"It was my opportunity to serve, to provide feedback and mentoring, and to help people to understand that this uniform means that you will support the Constitution of the United States regardless of what people think, what they do, or how they feel about you."

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