Tag: blacks in the military

U.S. Armed Forces All-female African American WWII Unit Honored with Monument at Fort Leavenworth

6888th Postal Battalion (photo via radio.com)

by Kaylah Jackson via radio.com

The contributions of over 800 African American women who sorted mail in a segregated unit during WWII were recognized last month in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, with a monument erected in their honor.

“No mail, no morale,” was the motto of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the U.S. Army’s only all-African American and all-female unit during the Second World War.

Often referred to as the “Six-Triple-Eight,” the unit was made of up 824 enlisted and 31 officer women, who were originally from the Women’s Army Corps, Army Service Forces and Army Air Forces.

(Photo courtesy of Women of 6888th)

While many African American nurses served overseas in combat zones, WAC units remained separated and women of color were only allowed to serve overseas depending on the “needs of the Army.” The military faced pressure for African Americans WACs to serve in overseas components and eventually a request for 800 women to serve in the European Theatre was approved.

In 1945, warehouses and Red Cross workers in England became overwhelmed with a backlog of mail and packages addressed to U.S. service members. The hundreds of women who eventually made up the 6888th were selected to train for this exact mission.

Under the direction of Lt. Col Charity Edna Adams, the women traveled to Camp Shanks, New York after enduring boot camp, and eventually arriving in Birmingham, England, in 1945. Upon arrival to Europe, the women were welcome to a dimly lit and rat-infested warehouse with mail stacked to the ceilings.

Of the over 800 servicewomen, five were present at their monument dedication ceremony at Fort Leavenworth.

6888 Battalion Monument (Photo courtesy of George Marcec)

“Servicemen want their mail. That’s a morale booster,” Lena King told KCTV.  Now 95-years-old, then Corporal King worked among other women in the warehouse identifying miswritten pieces of mail and ensuring the men fighting received letters from their loved ones.

By dividing their work in shifts that ran 365 days a week, the women processed an average of 65,000 pieces of mail per shift, clearing the previous six-month backlog of letters in just three months.

(Photo courtesy of George Marcec)

Designed by sculptor Eddie Dixon, the monument features all of the names of the women of the Six-Triple-Eight, a bust of Lt. Col Adams and iconic photos highlighting the unit’s mission.

The monument sits near a series of other historical tributes on Fort Leavenworth. From honoring the first African American West Point graduate to the first African American four-star general, this monument will be another addition highlighting the “firsts” of our nation’s history at war.

Source: https://connectingvets.radio.com/articles/6888th-central-postal-directory-battalion-receives-monument-fort-leavenworth?fbclid=IwAR23Ae4QeZECbojxZvVOyPMVIjURCO9z3Uc4GqS4GPulDlmCwoukLX709mk

Retired Marine John Canley to Receive Medal of Honor 50 years after his Heroics During Vietnam War

Retired Sgt. Major John Canley (photo via stripes.com)

via stripes.com

A Marine credited with saving the lives of countless members of his company during one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War will receive the Medal of Honor, thanks to the efforts of a congresswoman and a group of Marines who witnessed his heroics.

Retired Sgt. Maj. John Canley, who lives in the coastal community of Oxnard, California, will receive the nation’s highest military honor. An official announcement from the White House is expected once a date for the presentation is confirmed. Canley initially received the Navy Cross, as well as two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart, for his actions overseas.

According to his Navy Cross citation, Canley — then a gunnery sergeant with 1st Battalion, 1st Marines — displayed extraordinary leadership and selflessness during the Battle of Hue in early 1968.

After his company’s commander was seriously wounded, Canley sprang into action and immediately took control of his fellow Marines. Over the course of the weeklong siege, Canley successfully neutralized enemy combatants and brought injured Marines to safety, despite sustaining several shrapnel injuries. “Gunnery Sergeant Canley lent words of encouragement to his men,” the citation reads. “And [he] exhorted them to greater efforts as they drove the enemy from its fortified emplacement.”

John Ligato, one of the Marines who fought alongside Canley in Vietnam, called him “totally fearless.” “You followed him because he was a true leader — something you need in life-and-death situations.”

Canley’s road to the Medal of Honor was a long one, requiring the intervention of several dedicated Marines and Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Calif. Ligato and his fellow 1st Battalion Marines spent nearly 15 years pushing for Canley to be recognized with the honor, only to see the effort met with more than 10 rejections.

“There were times I gave up,” Ligato told military.com. “But the irony is he’s one of the most deserved Medal of Honor recipients ever in the history of our country.”

In 2014, one of the Marines reached out to Brownley, who represents Canley’s district, and it was with her help that the Department of Defense offered to review the recommendation to upgrade Canley’s Navy Cross.

“Sergeant Major Canley truly exemplifies the kind of courage and bravery for which this honor is awarded,” Brownley said in a written statement. “He is a true American hero and a shining example of the kind of gallantry and humility that makes our Armed Forces the best military in the world.”

To read more: https://www.stripes.com/news/us/marine-to-receive-medal-of-honor-50-years-after-battle-of-hue-heroics-1.538583

U.S. Navy Finally Joins Army, Air Force and Marines in Lifting Ban on Dreadlocks for Women

Petty Officer 1st Class Jacqualynn Leak hid her locs under a wig for years before fighting to lift the Navy’s dreadlocks ban. (PHOTO COURTESY OF JACQUALYNN LEAK)

by Kenya Downs via huffingtonpost.com

The United States Navy is joining the Marines, Army and Air Force in ending its ban on dreadlocks for female sailors. The naval branch announced the reversal Tuesday in a live broadcast on its Facebook page.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson says the change won’t just make the Navy more formidable, but also more inclusive.

The Navy enlisted a six-person working group to recommend changes to grooming standards, based on feedback from their peers. As part of the decision, ponytails, buns and other styles will also be permissible for women in uniform so long as they don’t interfere with a sailor’s operational or safety needs. Male sailors are still required to keep their hair short.

Petty Officer 1st Class Jacqualynn Leak, a member of the working group, has worn dreadlocks since 2014. She led efforts to reverse the ban and says her fight involved years of research on the cultural and health aspects of wearing locs. She also surveyed dozens of female sailors affected by the ban.

“I wanted to make an argument so compelling that every reason my chain of command could give me for why dreadlocks were banned could easily be rebutted with facts,” she said.

Before, Leak opted to cover her shoulder-length dreadlocks by wearing a wig, which she says became more difficult as her hair grew. Options were even more limited for other female sailors. Some were forced to choose between cutting off their dreadlocks in favor of chemically straightened hair, or facing harsh punishment.

In 2014, Petty Officer 2nd Class Jessica Sims, a hospital corpsman, was honorably discharged for refusing to cut off locs she’d worn in a tight-knit bun for over a decade.

While challenges to military rules on hairstyles aren’t new, controversy surrounding black hair reached a peak around the time of Sims’ discharge. As word spread, revisions to Army grooming regulations were leaked, revealing proposed changes to ban hairstyles common among women of color. The proposed policy, called AR 670-1, would have banned all natural hairstyles, including twists, braids, cornrows and Afros.

Many criticized the regulations as specifically targeting black women. Once it had been made public, the policy faced immediate backlash, culminating in an open letter from the Congressional Black Caucus and an official review ordered by the Pentagon. The decision was ultimately reversed.

But that reversal didn’t include dreadlocks. First Lt. Whennah Andrews of the U.S. Army National Guard has been fighting for servicewomen’s right to wear them ever since. Together with fellow soldiers, Andrews began a campaign to challenge misconceptions many within the military have about dreadlocks’ cleanliness, cultural relevance and ease of use.

Leak enlisted Andrews for guidance when deciding to take on the Navy. Andrews says the Navy’s announcement is the final triumph signaling a victory for military diversity.

“When news broke that the Army lifted the ban on locs, I thought to myself, ‘It’s not a complete win until all of the branches authorize them,’” she said. “The unique challenges African-American servicewomen faced with trying to adhere to grooming policies were universal across the Department of Defense.”

This week’s decision makes the Navy the last branch of the military to drop grooming regulations that prohibit dreadlocks. The Marines first approved locs for women in 2015, and the Air Force announced late last year that dreadlocks would become an approved hairstyle after a review by its uniform board. The Army authorized dreadlocks for women earlier this year after having previously banned them since 2005.

Lt. General Darryl A. Williams Becomes 1st African American Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy

Lt. General Darryl A. Williams (photo via armytimes.com)

via jbhe.com

Darryl A. Williams is the 60th superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. He is the first African American to serve in this role in the 216-year history of the academy.

A native of Alexandria, Virginia, and a veteran of the first Gulf War, Lieutenant General Williams most recently served as the Commander of Allied Land Command for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Turkey. Previously he held command posts with the Second Infantry Division in South Korea and was deputy chief of staff for the U.S. Army in Europe. In 2014, President Obama appointed General Williams to lead U.S Army Africa, where he led the Defense Department’s program to combat the ebola virus.

General Williams is a 1983 graduate of West Point. He holds master’s degrees in leadership development, military art and science, and national security and strategic studies.

Source: https://www.jbhe.com/2018/07/the-first-african-american-superintendent-of-the-u-s-military-academy/

Air Force Maj. Robert Lawrence Jr., America’s 1st Black Astronaut, Honored by Kennedy Space Center

First Black Astronaut Honored by the Kennedy Space Center
Air Force Maj. Robert Lawrence Jr. (Image: Wikipedia Commons)

by Selena Hill via blackenterprise.com

America’s first Black astronaut received a long overdue honor earlier this month, 50 years after his tragic death.

Air Force Maj. Robert Lawrence Jr., a trailblazer who opened a door for people of color in STEM, was honored on Dec. 8 for his contributions to space exploration at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Los Angeles Times reported. Hundreds of people gathered at the center to commemorate him, including NASA dignitaries, astronauts, Omega Psi Phi fraternity members, and schoolchildren.

After graduating high school at the age of 16, Lawrence earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Bradley University at just 20 years old. Later, he obtained a doctoral degree in physical chemistry in 1965. In the ’60s, he was part of a classified military space program created to spy on the Soviet Union. Had he not died in a plane crash on Dec. 8, 1967, at the age of 32, he would have certainly gone on to fly NASA shuttles to space. However, his life was cut short when his F-104 Starfighter crashed at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

“He had a great future ahead of him if he had not been lost 50 years ago today,” said Robert Crippen, who participated in the military space program with Lawrence, according to ABC News.

Although his career was short-lived, Lawrence paved the way for other black astronauts like Guy Bluford, who became the first African American in space in 1983, and Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African American woman to travel to space in 1992.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Lawrence’s family members have been fighting to get Lawrence the recognition that he deserves for decades. The Air Force would not immediately acknowledge that he was an astronaut since he did not have the opportunity to fly as high as the 1960s-required altitude of 50 miles. It also took 30 years after his death before his name was added to the Astronauts Memorial Foundation’s Space Mirror.

Source: http://www.blackenterprise.com/first-black-astronaut-honored/

Simone Askew Selected 1st Captain of Corps of Cadets at West Point

U.S. Military Academy Class of 2018 Cadet Simone Askew was selected First Captain of the Corps of Cadets, the highest position in the cadet chain of command. (Photo Credit: 2nd Lt. Austin LaChance)

via army.mil

WEST POINT, N.Y. — Cadet Simone Askew of Fairfax, Virginia, has been selected First Captain of the U.S. Military Academy’s Corps of Cadets for the 2017-2018 academic year, achieving the highest position in the cadet chain of command. She will assume her duties on Aug. 14.

Askew, an International History major, currently leads 1,502 cadets as the Regimental Commander of Cadet Basic Training II. As First Captain she is responsible for the overall performance of the approximately 4,400-member Corps of Cadets. Her duties also include implementing a class agenda and acting as a liaison between the Corps and the administration.

Askew is the first African-American woman to hold this esteemed position.

“Simone truly exemplifies our values of Duty, Honor, Country. Her selection is a direct result of her hard work, dedication and commitment to the Corps over the last three years,” said Brig. Gen. Steven W. Gilland, commandant of cadets. “I know Simone and the rest of our incredibly talented leaders within the Class of 2018 will provide exceptional leadership to the Corps of Cadets in the upcoming academic year.”

Outside of the curriculum, Askew is a member of the Army West Point Crew team and developing leaders as the Cadet-in-Charge of the Elevation Initiative. She is a graduate of Air Assault School, an EXCEL Scholar, a member of the Phi Alpha Theta Honorary National History Society, a recipient of the Black Engineer of the Year Award for Military Leadership, and holds the highest female Recondo score during Combat Field Training II for the class of 2018.

To see a video feature story on Askew, click here: http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Fairfax-County-Woman-Makes-History-at-West-Point_Washington-DC-438421463.html?_osource=SocialFlowTwt_DCBrand

Source: Simone Askew Selected First Captain | Article | The United States Army

Deshauna Barber Crowned Miss USA 2016 | MadameNoire

Ms. Barber took a stand for women’s rights last night.

Admittedly, I’ve never been a watcher of beauty pageants. I respect the women. I understand that there is an incredible amount of work that goes into preparing for this annual event, it’s just never been my thing. Not to mention, Black girls aren’t often chosen as the winner. But last night, not only did Deshauna Barber, a 26-year-old Black woman from the District of Columbia, emerge victorious, she did so with a narrative that defied many of the stereotypes associated with pageant girls.

Barber is a commander in the United States army, who, in her profile video, filmed by the people of Miss USA, says that she is trying to dispel stereotypes of women in the military as well as women in the pageant world.

Source: Deshauna Barber Crowned Miss USA 2016 | MadameNoire

Marine Corps Uniform Board Finally Allows Twist, Loc Hairsyles For Women

Twists may only be worn with medium or long hair, and can extend no more than 2 inches from the scalp. (Photo: Marine Corps)
Twists may be worn with medium or long hair, and can extend up to 2 inches from the scalp. (Photo: Marine Corps)

After an extended battle to include protective hairstyles for women of color into their uniform policy, the Marine Corps Uniform Board decided to make the traditional hairstyles permissible options, as long as the styles are “professional and neat in appearance,” the Marine Corps Times reports.

The hairstyles may also be easier for female Marines to maintain “in a expeditionary environment,” the Times writes. Military hair policies have been at the forefront of conversations for nearly a year, with advocates saying current policies disregarded the traditional and healthy styles often worn by Black women.

While the Navy does allow two-strand twists in their uniform policy, the Marine Corps is the first military branch to allow locs.

From the Marine Corps Times:

The changes were driven by the recommendations of Staff Sgt. Cherie Wright, who is assigned to II Marine Expeditionary Force. She told Marine officials that “for some, this change is culturally liberating, has financial benefits, and is simply convenient.”

Locks may be worn with short, medium or long hair; partings must be square or rectangular to achieve a neat and professional military appearance.

Twist hairstyles allow two sections of hair twisted together, which forms a rope or cord-like appearance.  Twists may only be worn with medium or long hair, and can extend no more than 2 inches from the scalp.  Medium length does not extend beyond the collar’s lower edge and extends more than one inch from the scalp. Long hair extends beyond the collar’s lower edge. One- and two-twist hairstyles such as the French twist are authorized as long as a neat and professional military appearance is maintained and the hairstyle does not interfere with the proper wear of headgear.

article via newsone.com

Lt. Gen. Nadja West Confirmed by Senate as First Black Army Surgeon General

naja west (lt general)
Lt. General Naja West is the Army’s first black Surgeon General (Photo: John G. Martinez, Photojournalist to the Secretary of the Army)

Falls Church, VA  – The Senate confirmed Thursday Lt. Gen. Nadja Y. West to serve as the new Army Surgeon General and Commanding General, U.S. Army Medical Command (MEDCOM).  This makes West the Army’s first black Surgeon General.

Additionally, with the appointment as the 44th Army Surgeon General, West picks up a third star to become the Army’s first black female to hold the rank of lieutenant general.  West was sworn in as the Army Surgeon general on Friday by Acting Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning. She most recently served as the Joint Staff Surgeon at the Pentagon.

The Army Surgeon General provides advice and assistance to the Secretary of the Army and Army Chief of Staff on all health care matters pertaining to the U.S. Army and its military health care system.  West will be responsible for development, policy direction, organization and overall management of an integrated Army-wide health service system and is the medical material developer for the Army. These duties include formulating policy regulations on health service support, health hazard assessment and the establishment of health standards.

Dual-hatted as the MEDCOM commanding general, West oversees more than 48 medical treatment facilities providing care to nearly 4 million active duty members of all services, retirees and their Family members. MEDCOM is composed of three regional health commands, the Medical Research and Materiel Command, and Army Medical Department Center & School.

West holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point and a Doctorate of Medicine from George Washington University School of Medicine. She has held previous assignments as Commanding General, Europe Regional Medical Command; Commander of Womack Army Medical Center, Fort Bragg, N.C.; and Division Surgeon, 1st Armored Division, Army Europe and Seventh Army, Germany.

West hails from the District of Columbia, and she finished high school at the Academy of the Holy Names in Silver Spring, Md.

While West’s promotion to lieutenant general is already effective, she will “pin” on the rank in a formal ceremony in early 2015.

article via eurweb.com

R.I.P. Emma Didlake, 110 Year-Old Woman Believed to Be Nation’s Oldest Veteran

President Barack Obama meets with Emma Didlake, 110, of Detroit, the oldest known World War II veteran, Friday, July 17, 2015, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Barack Obama meets with Emma Didlake, 110, of Detroit, the oldest known World War II veteran, Friday, July 17, 2015, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. — A Michigan woman who was believed to be the nation’s oldest veteran at 110 has died, about a month after meeting President Barack Obama in the Oval Office.

Emma Didlake died Sunday in West Bloomfield, northwest of Detroit, according to the Oakland County medical examiner’s office.

Didlake was a 38-year-old wife and mother of five when she signed up in 1943 for the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. She served about seven months stateside during the war, as a private and driver.

She spent time with the president in July during a trip to Washington that was arranged by Talons Out Honor Flight, a southwest Michigan chapter of a national nonprofit that provides free, one-day trips for veterans to visit monuments and memorials in the nation’s capital.

“Emma Didlake served her country with distinction and honor, a true trailblazer for generations of Americans who have sacrificed so much for their country,” Obama said Monday afternoon in a statement. “I was humbled and grateful to welcome Emma to the White House last month, and Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to Emma’s family, friends, and everyone she inspired over her long and quintessentially American life.”

Didlake was born in Alabama and moved with her family to Detroit in 1944. She was known to her family as “Big Mama” and recently moved to an assisted living family in suburban Detroit.

She was deemed the oldest U.S. veteran based on information gleaned by Honor Flight representatives through national outreach campaigns.

Granddaughter Marilyn Horne told The Associated Press last month that when Talons Out officials presented her grandmother with a short-sleeved shirt bearing the group’s logo to wear on the trip to Washington, Didlake took a look and said: “‘I don’t have Michelle Obama arms — I’m going to need a jacket.'”

During her visit to the White House, Didlake wore a patriotic-themed neck scarf and sat in her wheelchair in the same spot in the Oval Office where foreign leaders sit when they meet with Obama.

article by Associated Press via nbcnews.com