Airman Stephen E. Roomes (left) of Providence, RI, was the first and only Black American to serve in the Air Force’s first “Prime BEEF” unit (Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force). This highly rapid deployment, special civil engineering unit was created to establish and maintain bases and airfields, as well as respond to chemical, biological, and radiological emergencies.
Stephen served in the Korean War as well as Vietnam War. He and his son, Jason, are direct descendants of Caesar Roomes who had been freed from enslavement to serve in the 1st Rhode Island “Black” Regiment during the American Revolutionary War.
A collection of Stephen’s things will go on display soon at the Varnum Memorial Armory Museum in a new Cold War exhibit.