CORONADO, Calif. - Military and civilian personnel on the staff of Commander, Naval Surface Force U.S. Pacific Fleet (COMNAVSURFPAC) gathered together to observe Black History Month with a special ceremony and luncheon, Feb. 27.
The ceremony, sponsored by the COMNAVSURFPAC Diversity Committee, emphasized this year's nationwide theme of "A Century of Black Life, History and Culture.”
COMNAVSURFPAC’s observance included remarks by Vice Adm. Thomas S. Rowden, COMNAVSURFPAC, Capt. Paul H. Hogue, Commander, Destroyer Squadron 23, and a presentation by former Marines who attended basic training at the historic Camp Montford Point located in North Carolina.
“We are here today to recognize the many contributions African Americans have made to our country and our Navy,” said Rowden. “In the 35 years I have been associated with the Navy, I tend to think about some of the changes that have occurred. I think about all the great African American Sailors I have had the pleasure of working alongside throughout those years.”
Rowden said cultural awareness events like Black History Month make him think about how far the Navy and nation have come, but also reminds him of how much work is still left to be done.
I think about our organization and the maturation of this great Navy. I think about how far we have come and I also think about the work we have left to do.”
“We must be a nation and a Navy where everybody can achieve their full potential,” said Rowden. “If we continue to pursue that we will continue to be the greatest nation on earth and the greatest Navy to ever sail the ocean.
Hogue, who served as the guest speaker for the event, said when he thinks about progress in equality in the military it reminds him of his deployment on board USS Nimitz (CVN 68).
“Adm. [Mark] Ferguson visited and I happen to see his aide walking down the passageway, he was an African American Lt. Cmdr. and Navy SEAL and I thought 'wow',” said Hogue. “ I turned to walk the other way and walked right past an African American F-18 pilot and I'll be honest, I thought to myself 'that's' progress'.”
Hogue said he always knew by coming in the Navy he would always have the opportunity to do whatever we wanted.
“But when you see it and actually understand it, it means a lot more,” said Hogue. “When I look at the theme of today's celebration; 'A Century of Black Life, History and Culture', that means ones thing to me - progress.”
Retired Marine Corps First Sgt. Joe Earl Jackson and retired Gunnery Sgt. J. T. Ingle, both Camp Montford Point alumni, shared their stories of military life during segregation with those who attended the ceremony.
Celebrated each February in the United States and at U.S. military commands around the world, Black History Month can be traced back to 1926 when Negro History Week was first established by Harvard historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. In 1976, President Gerald Ford proclaimed the entire month of February as "Black History Month."
Today, more than 120,000 active duty, Reserve and civilian members of the Navy Total Force identify themselves as being African American.