Wednesday, August 13, 2008

CDR Merle J. Smith, the First Black CGA graduate. Class of 1966.

U.S. Coast Guard Academy: Promoting Diversity and Cultural Understanding

I Recently spoke with the first Black senior officer, active or retired, to hold a faculty position at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. He holds a position as a law professor under CDR Glenn Sulmasy, a National Security/Foreign Policy Expert.

CDR Merle J. Smith* (ret) has pioneered many times over but this recent development may be the most important task that has been assigned to him by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Amongst other tough assignments that he has taken, CDR Smith is the first Black graduate of the Academy and one of the first academy graduates to hold a command position in the Vietnam War.

In words that he shared with me a long while back, "Getting through the academy as someone 'different' was much more dramatic than any small boat patrol along the Meikong Delta

The senior administration of the Coast Guard recently cited an urgent need for minority appointees at CGA, according to Smith. He was hired shortly after.

This is an admirable and effective move by the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

He will offer a unique perspective within the law department, a positive image to all cadets, an outlet for tough questions that black active duty members are afraid to answer, and he will escalate the pace while improving the efficiency of the minority recruiting process.

*No relation to former Cadet Webster M. Smith, who wrote this article.



Blogger ichbinalj said...

Attorneys for former Coast Guard Academy cadet Webster Smith have filed a brief and a petition for review and appeal of his court-martial with the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. (Aug 2008). This is the last level of appeal before the U S Supreme Court.

2:33 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

Former cadet Webster Smith said:
The Coast Guard Academy has done much to boost minority recruitment, by excluding white males from an all-encompassing statistical category and calling it "minorities." In a older post for the Coast Guard Report, I wrote:
In the CGA class of 2011, an academy officer has reported a population of “four Black cadets at most.” In the United States of America, African-Americans constitute 12.7% of the population according to the 2000 Census. The average class of cadets reporting to CGA for indoctrination is consistently 300+. Can you imagine 38 Black cadets in one class? It is likely that there are less than 30 Black cadets in the entire cadet population, amassing a whopping 3% of the nation’s prospective Coast Guard Academy-bred officer corps.
Cleon Smith and Edward Richards were a part of the 1974 class, recruited by retired CMDR, London Steverson.

My father, Cleon Smith, was in a celebratory mood during his 30th Reunion. He and Edward Richards are one of the few. His appreciation for the Coast Guard is manufactured for an event like this, every five years. He will go back again and again, but not because he has stock in his brief source of reunion pride. He gave up on the Coast Guard in 1987. Mr. Richards gave up on the Coast Guard long before him. For the class of 1978, only ADM Manson Brown remains.

2:56 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

Webster Smith said:
While CAAF is deciding whether or not to address the constitutional issues in my case, I remain faithful that they will hear the case and deliberate on it, objectively. I have seen God move mountains, in my life. I have prayed for many things but nothing moreso than vindication. Not because I want to win something but because I want to be something. I am a couple of things right now: a father, a husband, and the resident hyper-active geek at a Houston Law Firm. I know that I don’t write about any of this much but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t on my mind–nearly every second of every day.

5:10 AM  
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.

9:47 PM  

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