SUBGRU 2 Sailor Reflects on Black History Month and His Successes in the Military
GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- A Commander, Submarine Group (SUBGRU) 2 Senior Chief reflected on Black History Month, which began Feb. 1, the unique skill set he provides to the submarine force, and the leaders who made it possible.
"The reason we have these opportunities is because of all of those who paved the way before us and the courage displayed by Adm. Elmo Zumwalt and Adm. James Holloway for example," said Senior Chief Sonar Technician Submarines (SS) Xavier Harris, of Corsicana, Texas.
Harris added that Adm. Zumwalt and Adm. Holloway serve as his mentors because of the vision they had for the U.S. Navy to allow everyone to serve equally.
"Adm. Zumwalt wanted everyone to have the right to choose their own rating, and Adm. Holloway believed that the best way to motivate Sailors was to provide them advancement opportunities," said Harris.
Harris reported to SUBGRU 2 in April 2010 and reflected on his decision earlier in his career to qualify in the Acoustics Intelligence (ACINT) Specialist program, which started in 1962. Since its creation five decades ago only 231 Sailors have qualified in this specialty.
"During your time as a crew member in a sonar division, you are evaluated as a potential candidate for the specialty," said Harris.
Harris added that there are currently 43 qualified ACINT specialists serving on both submarines and surface ships.
Harris spent two years in training to become an ACINT Specialist. "When you look at the number of qualified ACINT specialists on active duty, the number of African Americans working in this specialty is extremely rare," said Harris.
Harris added that currently he is one of two African American ACINT specialists serving in the U.S. Navy and reflects on a previous deployment when they served together.
"At the time we were serving aboard the Los Angeles-class submarine USS Bremerton (SSN 698). The commanding officer wasn't aware we were the only two serving African Amercians in the ACINT program and was honored to have served with us," said Harris.
Harris added that they all realized, when serving together, that this was a minor detail because at the end of the day what's important is their performance as ACINT Specialists and successful completion of the mission.
"In my 16 years of service in the U.S. Navy, it has provided me ample opportunities to advance, and I have enjoyed every minute of it," said Harris.
Each year, the Navy joins the nation in the observance of African American/Black History Month. Established as Negro History Week in 1926 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, it was later expanded by President Gerald R. Ford in 1976, when he proclaimed February as Black History Month.