Sunday, January 06, 2008

Lt London Steverson, NNOA's Judge Advocate General, at NNOA's 1980 National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.

Navy and Coast Guard officers stationed in the New England area are reviving The National Naval Officers Association (NNOA), an organization that intends to bring more racial and ethnic minorities into the officer corps of the sea services reports Jennifer Grogan in the 6 December 2008 edition of The Day, a newspaper in New London, Connecticut. The New London area is rich in military history and activity. It is the home of the United States Coast Guard Academy. Just up the Thames River from the Academy is the Groton Naval Submarine Base, the home of the Polaris, the first submarine to circumnavigate the globe underwater.

In 2007, whites accounted for more than 80 percent of active-duty Marine, Navy and Coast Guard officers. Between 5 and 8 percent of the officer corps was Black, and the percentage of Hispanics hovered around 6 points.

The rest of the officer corps comprises smaller percentages of other groups, including Asian, American Indian /Alaskan Native, and Native Hawaiian / other Pacific Islander.

“We're behind,” said Lt. Mark Braxton, a civil engineering instructor at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London. “We don't look like what we should look like.”

The organization they have reactivated is the New England Chapter of the NNOA. It aims to help the Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps recruit, retain and promote officers from diverse races and ethnic backgrounds.

“We need a voice so people know how we feel,” said Braxton, vice president of the chapter. “When things occur, we now have somewhere we can go to organize our thoughts, and we have a voice to address our thoughts.”

The majority of the local chapter's members are Black, but members say they're interested in helping all groups that are underrepresented in the military.

Although public discussion of diversity in the military often focuses on the “don't ask, don't tell” policy, which allows homosexuals to serve if they keep their sexual orientation secret, NNOA does not have an official position on that issue.

“There are a lot of worthwhile and legitimate causes we could get involved in, but because we are a volunteer organization with some limited resources, we have to stay focused on our primary task, which is to enhance diversity in the sea services' officer corps,” said Bernard L. Jackson, a retired Navy captain and national president of NNOA.

A NNOA chapter in Newport disbanded more than a decade ago because too few people were involved.

“When you look at the number of junior officers in that particular area, there is a critical need for a chapter,” Jackson said.

“Before, you didn't have anybody to go to and say, 'Hey, how do I promote my career? How do I stay on track?'” said Lt. Cmdr. Nigel Andre Sealy, the new chapter's president. Sealy serves as maintenance management officer at Regional Support Group Groton at the Naval Submarine Base.

Lt. Cmdr. Darell Singleterry, an instructor in the department of management at the Academy, said that his interaction with NNOA members earlier in his career was one of the reasons he decided to stay in the Coast Guard.

“When you have conversations with senior successful leaders in the organization, you become motivated, you become invigorated to do great things and follow in their footsteps,” said Singleterry, who also helped organize the local chapter.

Recent efforts to re-establish the association locally began when Rear Adm. Cecil D. Haney, commander of Submarine Group Two, asked Lt. Cmdr. Thomasina Yuille to work on the project and suggested partnering with the academy.

“Personally, I was a little surprised we didn't have one up here,” Haney said. “When you look at my goals for leadership, which are similar to my boss's and similar to the Chief of Naval Operations' goals, it is about professional development. I looked at this as a mechanism by which we could have good professional development.”

Rear Adm. J. Scott Burhoe, Coast Guard Academy superintendent, supported the idea.

“We need to have more minority officers and more women in our senior ranks so that those people who are in the organization can look up and see people who look like themselves,” he said.

Sealy said the reactivation would not have been possible without the support from Haney and Burhoe.

“Unless you have that leadership from the top, believing in it, you wouldn't be able to get these things going,” he said.

Yuille, a chaplain at the Naval Submarine School in Groton, presided over the chapter during the initial organizing.

“People feel like they have a place to turn to,” she said. “NNOA builds relationships, networks and just that support that people will have now that they didn't have before. And with that, hopefully, we'll see an increase in retention.”

The chapter's members have contacted local schools, including New London High, Norwich Free Academy and Three Rivers Community College, to speak with students about the military, and they are looking for professional training opportunities and volunteer projects to work on.

The NNOA's national association gave the chapter $1,000 to offer scholarships, and the members hope to expand the scholarship program in the future. They meet once a month, with committees meeting more frequently.

Membership is open to active duty, reserve and retired officers, cadets at the academy and interested civilians — of any race or ethnic background.

“We let everyone know about organization, and a lot of minority officers are interested and see the benefit of it,” said Sealy, the chapter president, adding that white officers, too, could benefit from membership.

“This is a strategic imperative because not everyone is going to look like the leadership of the past,” Sealy said. “You can't. The numbers aren't there anymore.”

“My desire is to one day not need an organization like NNOA,” Jackson, the national president, said, “but right now, there is a need.”

Judge London Steverson
London Eugene Livingston Steverson
 (born March 13, 1947) was one of the first two African Americans to graduate from the United States Coast Guard Academy in 1968. Later, as chief of the newly formed Minority Recruiting Section of the United States Coast Guard (USCG), he was charged with desegregating the Coast Guard Academy by recruiting minority candidates. He retired from the Coast Guard in 1988 and in 1990 was appointed to the bench as a Federal Administrative Law Judge with the Office of Hearings and Appeals, Social Security Administration.

Early Life and Education
Steverson was born and raised in Millington, Tennessee, the oldest of three children of Jerome and Ruby Steverson. At the age of 5 he was enrolled in the E. A. Harrold elementary school in a segregated school system. He later attended the all black Woodstock High School in Memphis, Tennessee, graduating valedictorian.
A Presidential Executive Order issued by President Truman had desegregated the armed forces in 1948,[1] but the service academies were lagging in officer recruiting. President Kennedy specifically challenged the United States Coast Guard Academy to tender appointments to Black high school students. London Steverson was one of the Black student to be offered such an appointment, and when he accepted the opportunity to be part of the class of 1968, he became the second African American to enter the previously all-white military academy. On June 4, 1968 Steverson graduated from the Coast Guard Academy with a BS degree in Engineering and a commission as an ensign in the U.S. Coast Guard.
In 1974, while still a member of the Coast Guard, Steverson entered The National Law Center of The George Washington University and graduated in 1977 with a Juris Doctor of Laws Degree.

USCG Assignments.
Steverson's first duty assignment out of the Academy was in Antarctic research logistical support. In July 1968 he reported aboard the Coast Guard Cutter (CGC) Glacier [2] (WAGB-4), an icebreaker operating under the control of the U.S. Navy, and served as a deck watch officer and head of the Marine Science Department. He traveled to Antarctica during two patrols from July 1968 to August 1969, supporting the research operations of the National Science Foundation's Antarctic Research Project in and around McMurdo Station. During the 1969 patrol the CGC Glacier responded to an international distress call from the Argentine icebreaker General SanMartin, which they freed.
He received another military assignment from 1970 to 1972 in Juneau, Alaska as a Search and Rescue Officer. Before being certified as an Operations Duty Officer, it was necessary to become thoroughly familiar with the geography and topography of the Alaskan remote sites. Along with his office mate, Ltjg Herbert Claiborne "Bertie" Pell, the son of Rhode Island Senator Claiborne Pell, Steverson was sent on a familiarization tour of Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force bases. The bases visited were Base Kodiak, Base Adak Island, and Attu Island, in the Aleutian Islands.[3]
Steverson was the Duty Officer on September 4, 1971 when an emergency call was received that an Alaska Airlines Boeing 727 airline passenger plane was overdue at Juneau airport. This was a Saturday and the weather was foggy with drizzling rain. Visibility was less than one-quarter mile. The 727 was en route to Seattle, Washington from Anchorage, Alaska with a scheduled stop in Juneau. There were 109 people on board and there were no survivors. Steverson received the initial alert message and began the coordination of the search and rescue effort. In a matter of hours the wreckage from the plane, with no survivors, was located on the side of a mountain about five miles from the airport. For several weeks the body parts were collected and reassembled in a staging area in the National Guard Armory only a few blocks from the Search and Rescue Center where Steverson first received the distress broadcast.[4]. Later a full investigation with the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the cause of the accident was equipment failure.[5]
Another noteworthy item is Steverson's involvement as an Operations Officer during the seizure of two Russian fishing vessels, the Kolevan and the Lamut for violating an international agreement prohibiting foreign vessels from fishing in United States territorial waters. The initial attempts at seizing the Russian vessels almost precipitated an international incident when the Russian vessels refused to proceed to a U. S. port, and instead sailed toward the Kamchatka Peninsula. Russian MIG fighter planes were scrambled, as well as American fighter planes from Elmendorf Air Force Base before the Russian vessels changed course and steamed back

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the 60s-80s when we talked about "managing diversity", we really meant race and gender. Sadly, we still find ourselves well short of optimizing either or both of those elements. Both the enlightened intellectual and the practical project leaders of today see huge value in making certain his or her team is composed of members who bring not only gender and racial diversity but also a wide spectrum of skills and capabilities to the table. We want variations in expertise and age and MATURITY and ideas and CULRURE and any other factors of consequence that could help get the project done well. For too long we have celebrated what we had in common. That's OK, but the fault lies in pretending that we have everything in common. WE SURELY DO NOT and the better leader knows that and acts on that knowledge.

9:50 PM  

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