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Posts Tagged ‘navy

Navy Commissions U.S.S. Gravely, Newest Burke-Class Destroyer

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By Jane Anderson, Suite 101

The U.S. Navy commissioned its latest Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, the U.S.S. Gravely, on Nov. 20, 2010, in Wilmington, N.C. The ship honors Vice Admiral Samuel Lee Gravely Jr., the first African American to command a Navy warship.

About 4,000 sailors and guests attended the commissioning ceremony, held at the North Carolina State Ports facility. The audience included friends and family of Gravely himself, including veterans who served with him on the U.S.S. Taussig, which he commanded in combat. Gravely died in 2004.

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Written by Symphony

December 2, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Navy honors first black Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician

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By Timothy J. Gibbons, Florida Times Union

shermanbyrdCynthia Conner of Jacksonville was only 13 when her father died, but her memories of him are clear.

Sherman Byrd was a strong man who loved his country and his Navy. A quiet man. A perfectionist.

But he was something else, too – something Conner and the rest of her family just found out earlier this year.

Master Chief Sherman Byrd was the first black sailor to become an Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician, breaking the color barrier in 1958 to join an elite group in the Navy that deals with explosive threats anywhere they show up. The force is well-known now for dealing with improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Later a master chief, but then still a boatswain’s mate 2nd class, Byrd graduated from Explosive Ordnance School in 1958, going on to serve in Korea and Vietnam. He died April 9, 1971, after suffering a heart attack during physical training. He was 40 years old.

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Written by Symphony

October 6, 2009 at 6:31 am

Naval Warriors for Diversity at the Top

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by Courtland Milloy, Washington Post

navyIt seems appropriate on this Memorial Day to burnish two new red-letter dates in U.S. Naval history:

May 16: The USS Gravely is christened at the Northrop Grumman shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss. The state-of-the-art guided missile destroyer is named for Samuel L. Gravely Jr. of Richmond, who became the Navy’s first black admiral in 1971. It is the 10th ship named for an African American.

May 22: The nation’s first black commander in chief delivers his first military commencement address at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. Of the 1,036 graduates in the Class of 2009, 89 are Hispanic, 68 Asian American, 45 African American and 21 Native American. There are 203 women. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Symphony

May 25, 2009 at 10:41 am

First African American Admiral honored at christening

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By Sylvia Hall, WLOX ABC 13

biloxiBreaking a bottle over a new ship is a simple tradition, but in this instance, it has extraordinary significance for the U.S. Navy.

The U.S.S. Gravely will soon be the most technologically advanced warship on the seas.  Northrop Grumman shipbuilders have spent years creating the vessel, and now, it bears the name of the first African American to ever be called Admiral.  His name was Samuel L. Gravely.

“She’s beautiful,” said Gravely’s widow Alma, while looking up at the majestic destroyer.  “She’s just beautiful. My husband would love her.” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Symphony

May 18, 2009 at 4:56 pm

First black woman to command Navy ship to lead strike group

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Source: Virginian-Pilot

Rear Adm. Michelle J. Howard, the first black woman to command a U.S. Navy ship, is being assigned as commander of Expeditionary Strike Group Two in Norfolk, the Navy announced this week.

Howard, a 1982 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, is now the senior military assistant to the secretary of the Navy in Washington.

In 1999, she took command of the dock landing ship Rushmore. She went on to serve as commander of Amphibious Squadron 7 from May 2004 to September 2005. The squadron’s operations included tsunami relief in Indonesia and maritime security in the North Arabian Gulf.

Written by Symphony

December 17, 2008 at 6:10 am

A meticulously engineered life

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The Oregonian

Alvin Batiste always read the instructions first. As a child, he had an interest in how things worked, and he soon had his own set of tools. But fixing things took a long time, because Alvin had to collect all the data and analyze them.

As a youth, he was studious, but the Jim Crow South was no place for an African American man with ambition. Alvin’s potential was noted by a wealthy, elderly white Catholic woman named Mrs. Weaver. She hired him to read to her and to do errands. More important, she sponsored him through Howard University.

That act of charity was one of the reasons Alvin, raised Southern Baptist, later became a Catholic.

Alvin also went on to become an engineer for the Bonneville Power Administration and a community leader in Portland. He was one of the few African American men of his era who shaped policy at the city, state and national level. A “process” man, he employed a scientific approach to most things and never took on a challenge without plenty of documentation.

Alvin, who died April 18, 2008, at 85, was born poor in San Antonio. His ancestors included an Indian scout and Buffalo Soldiers. His father died when he was young. As the second of four children, he was raised in an extended family that sharecropped, trapped, hunted, fished, rounded up and branded cattle, picked cotton and did dry cleaning.

Alvin didn’t get to finish college at Howard University. The war started, and he enlisted in the Navy on May 12, 1943, and served on a ship as an equipment handler. In 1946, when his ship docked at Bremerton, Wash., he headed to Portland. He and the other African American sailors had heard about Portland’s thriving black community and that the hotels and railroad were hiring.

Bill McCoy, who later became a state senator, and Alvin became friends. Bill set Alvin up with 19-year-old Rosalie Thomas for a first meeting that took place in a drugstore on North Mississippi Avenue. The couple married in Holy Rosary Catholic Church in 1948. The first of their nine children was born in 1949.

As a young father, Alvin got a chemistry degree at the University of Portland in 1949, and he went to work for the BPA as a metallurgist and forensic engineer — one of the first African American BPA employees. Alvin often felt he had to be better than the white employees. He moved beyond discrimination and the hurts because he loved his job.

Alvin made sure there was money for two big expenses: Catholic school tuition for all nine children and insurance checks to Metropolitan Life.

What did he ask from his children in return? That they follow the instructions: maintain the three R’s, which were respect yourself, respect others, and take responsibility; value education and grow in faith; finish what you start; lead, not follow; and meet your potential.

“What you are to be, you’re now becoming,” he often said. And a standard graduation day lecture included: “Take no shortcuts.” It’s not who you know, “It’s who you know and what they know about you.”

Raising nine children and working full time might have been enough, but Alvin took on community work too. He and Rosalie volunteered to test equal opportunity laws at restaurants and at rentals. He protested cuts in bus service and advocated for bus shelters. He was involved with the Blanchet House, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Catholic Charities and Albertina Kerr. He ran unsuccessfully for the Portland School Board.

When his father-in-law was ill, Alvin took over his two janitorial jobs.

In 1969, he left the BPA to become executive director of the Model Cities Program in Portland. It was a hard job at a difficult time, and he was glad to go back to the BPA. In 1978, Alvin was appointed to the State Board of Higher Education, became chairman in 1985, then retired from the board in 1986.

Needless to say, Alvin was hardly ever home.

He retired from the BPA in 1980, and then came a rough time: He and Rosalie divorced. Alvin started a chemical waste consultant business in the Tri-Cities area, but after a few years, he came back to Portland, marrying Cecilia Enriquez in 1997. Cecilia had a stroke shortly after they wed, and Alvin slowly started backing out of community work to become her caretaker. It was then, also, that he started his journey inward.

He read everything, from politics to the history of African civilizations, and could pull out a quote from Shakespeare, Machiavelli or Locke. He pondered Asian philosophies and Greek mythology. He did calligraphy and wrote poetry.

True to his analytical bent, he used time while exercising to solve problems. Because he had to gather data before making a decision, he gathered information for others, too — large quantities of it.

And he still enjoyed fixing things, like oil furnaces, or car brakes, but the process wasn’t necessarily a quick one. He had to follow the instructions.

Facility Dedicated to Black Pioneer

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by Philip Rucker
Washington Post

Wesley A. Brown, a son of the District who became the first African American to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy, entered the pantheon of military heroes yesterday as the academy’s newest facility was dedicated in his honor.

The Navy’s highest brass celebrated Brown as a pioneer of racial justice with attendant pomp at yesterday’s opening of the $5 million Wesley A. Brown Field House on the scenic bank of the Severn River in Annapolis. Brown’s life story was hailed as an American tale of courage and perseverance, grace and humility.

“He fought a war his whole life for all of us to improve who we are as individuals, who we are both as a Navy and a nation,” said Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “It was his noble calling and it was his call to service and citizenship that led to lasting change in our Navy and in our nation.”

Brown, 81, a retired lieutenant commander, had few words for the crowd of several hundred naval officers, veterans, family and friends, but he said he was humbled by the honor.

“This is certainly the most wonderful moment in my life,” Brown said. “This is the most beautiful building I’ve ever seen. It’s majestic.”

The 140,000-square-foot facility is the new home of the academy’s track and field teams and will serve as the practice space for the football and women’s volleyball teams. It features a state-of-the-art hydraulically controlled AstroTurf track.

“This will enhance the Naval Academy’s ability to recruit and retain some of the finest students and athletes in the nation,” athletic director Chet Gladchuk said.

During his remarks, Brown issued a call to service. “I want you to help us in our efforts to recruit fine young men and women,” he said. “We need the volunteers to carry out our foreign policy.”

Brown was born in Baltimore in 1927, graduated from Dunbar High School in the District and became the first in his family to attend college, at Howard University. He entered the Naval Academy in 1945, where he was an accomplished athlete, running cross-country with Jimmy Carter, the 39th president, who was also a Naval Academy graduate.

Brown graduated in 1949, ranked in the top half of his class, breaking the academy’s color barrier. One year earlier, President Harry S. Truman had issued the executive order desegregating the military.

“Here in Annapolis, blacks and whites didn’t mix,” Mullen said. “It was time for a change. Enter Wesley Brown.”

Minorities make up 22 percent of the brigade of midshipmen today. More than 1,700 African Americans have graduated from the academy, including admirals, astronauts and such celebrities as basketball player David Robinson and talk show host Montel Williams.

Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) honored Brown’s perseverance and his love of the Navy.

“His personal struggle was a fight for the truths and beliefs that unite us as Americans,” O’Malley said.

Brown is a veteran of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, and served in the Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps. He helped build houses in Hawaii, roads in Liberia, waterfront facilities in the Philippines and a seawater conversion plant in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

After retiring from the Navy in 1969, Brown worked for the New York State University Construction Fund, the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, and Howard University.

Capt. Peter W. McGeory, the academy’s senior chaplain, paid tribute to Brown.

“He is a true American treasure, and may all of us learn from his courage, his grace, his humor and his humility,” McGeory said.

The academy’s gospel choir, made up largely of black midshipmen, sang at yesterday’s ceremony. Many of the singers said Brown has been an inspiration to them.

“I want to continue to keep building the bridges he built,” said Jon Singleton, 26, of Cordele, Ga. “He paved the way for us to follow. His legacy must continue.”

Written by Symphony

May 17, 2008 at 4:52 pm