Sunday, December 19, 2010

RTC Recruit Inspired by Golden Thirteen Relative

By Brian Walsh, Recruit Training Command Public Affairs

NAVAL STATION GREAT LAKES, Ill. (NNS) -- When Seaman Recruit Steven Smith, 22, of Detroit, graduates from Recruit Training Command (RTC) here Dec. 22, he'll take away a lot of family heritage, history and pride.

Smith arrived at RTC Oct. 28, and, at the time, little did he know he would enter a building named after a great-uncle and one of the first 13 African-American Navy officers.

"I knew the history of the Golden Thirteen and of my great-uncle," Smith said. "I did not realize that the building was referred to as the Golden Thirteen."

On the night of arrival at RTC recruits enter the Golden Thirteen in-processing building. The first thing they see is a prominent photo of those 13 officers, known as the Golden Thirteen, the building's namesake.

When Smith saw the large framed black and white photograph he focused on the officer pictured second from the left in the first row - his great-uncle Samuel Edward Barnes, Ph.D.

During the first days of in-processing, Smith, like many recruits, had missteps trying to learn the ways of the Navy. And, like many recruits, he got an earful from his Recruit Division Commander (RDC), Master Chief Fire Controlman Brian Happli.

"My RDC (Recruit Division Commander, Master Chief Fire Controlman Brian Happli) asked me, 'Are you sure you want to stay in the Navy?'" Smith said, after his first misstep during in-processing. "My reply was, 'Yes Master Chief; my great-uncle was Samuel Edward Barnes - one of the Golden Thirteen."

After revealing his relation to Barnes, the in-processing staff took Smith to the display cases containing more pictures and documents pertaining to the Golden Thirteen.

Throughout history until World War I, African Americans were limited and segregated in what they could do as enlisted Sailors. Becoming a commissioned officer was not allowed.

In June 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order that prohibited racial discrimination by any government agency.

The Navy began officer training for 16 African-American enlisted men at RTC in March 1944. Twelve were commissioned as ensigns and one was appointed as a warrant officer. These men became known as the Golden Thirteen.

After serving as officer in charge of the recreation and athletic programs at Great Lakes and as the personnel officer in Okinawa, Japan, Dr. Barnes was honorably discharged.

He earned a doctorates degree from the Ohio State University and made a name for himself in the field of sports administration. Later he became the first African-American member of the governing council of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

Smith remembers spending summers with his great-uncle in Ohio when he was about 10 years old. Barnes was a big influence in the young man's life.

"He once told me, 'A man cannot be a man until he serves his country,'" he said. "Even as a kid I wanted to follow in my great-uncle and my father's footsteps by serving in the Navy."

Dr. Barnes died on Dec. 28, 1998, on Smith's birthday. He attended the funeral at Arlington Cemetery.

"I didn't know how much my great-uncle meant to people until I was at his funeral," Smith said. "There were thousands of people; I have never seen that many people in one place. I remember the flags and the 21 Gun Salute."

When he and his girlfriend of six years got engaged, Smith decided that it was time to join the navy. They plan to get married on Dec. 26; four days after he graduates from boot camp.

"I use my family's past as motivation," Smith said. "Every time I walk into my ship, I think of how my dad and my great-uncle were going through the same things I am going through now. I know I have to carry out my heritage."

Smith will report to Electronics Technician advanced ("A") school in Groton, Conn., following his graduation as he looks to continue his Navy career in the submarine force.

For more news on RTC, visit

Honoring our Profession: Coast Guard Combat Vets

Written by: CDR Glynn Smith

Sometimes people forget that the United States Coast Guard, the smallest of our Nation’s military services, has participated in nearly every war, declared and undeclared, since 1790, when the Revenue Cutter Service was founded.

The Coast Guard Combat Veterans Association does its best to remind the Nation of this fact. Formed in 1985, the Association is a non-profit fraternal organization made of Active Duty Coast Guardsman, Reservists, Retirees, and Honorably-discharged Coast Guard Veterans who served in combat or provided direct support to combat operations. The mission of their 1,500 member group is to promote the knowledge and awareness of the Coast Guard’s role in these historical events.

“The Coast Guard has so many missions, and when most people think of the Coast Guard, they think of search-and-rescue and law enforcement,” said Association member Terry Lee. “It’s important for people to know that we currently have members in Bahrain, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and that, yes – we do go to war.”

The Coast Guard Combat Veterans don’t only look towards history or global events. They have carved out a unique and meaningful way to remain intimately involved with the Coast Guard of the future – by appearing at recruit training program graduations to honor some of the Nation’s newest Coast Guardsman.

“We present a certificate and wristwatch during every graduation to the physical fitness award recipient,” said Mr. Lee. “It’s important for these young men and women to know early on in their careers about the Coast Guard’s role in combat operations.”

The award has been presented since 1996; during that year, the recruit graduations were regularly attended by Coast Guard combat veterans Jack Campbell, Herb Weinstein, and Terry Lee.

Last year, the award was renamed after Mr. Campbell, a Coast Guard hero of the Second World War who participated in the Normandy Invasion of Europe. Mr. Campbell passed away two years ago this month.

“Attending recruit graduations was very important to Jack”, Mr. Lee remembered. “He was always so proud of the men and women that chose to join the Coast Guard to protect our country.”

Vice Admiral Sally Brice-O’Hara recently attended the graduation of one of the newest Coast Guard recruit companies, Company Delta-184, a group of young Coast Guard men and women she helped mentor during the training program. “By reaching out to our newest members, the Coast Guard Combat Veterans are forging strong links among Coast Guard Shipmates past, present, and future,” said the admiral. “In faithfully carrying out such a generous recognition program, the Combat Vets have willingly chosen to remain on duty – serving with us to shape our next generation.”