Monday, April 24, 2006

From Sacred Cow to Endangered Specie, over night.

Because the orders to recruit the first Black cadets came down the Chain-Of-Command from President John F. Kennedy, the Commander-In-Chief, the first Black cadets were treated like sacred cows. There was zero attrition of Black cadets between 1962 and 1972. Every Black cadet who entered graduated. In 1964 the Coast Guard Officer Corps was 99.44 percent white. Less than one-half of one percent of the officer corps was comprised of Black enlisted men who had been promoted to chief warrant officers. In 1973 the percentage of Black officers was still below one percent, but progress had been made. Also, President Kennedy was no longer Commander-In-Chief. With the large influx of Black cadets in 1973 and 1974 upperclass cadets were given the green light to weed out and to eliminate the less qualified Black entering cadets. The attrition rate for Black cadets reached astronomical levels. Up to 70 percent of the Black cadets entering were forced to resign before graduation.
Overnight the Black cadets became Black officers and went from being sacred cows to an endangered specie. At the Academy they had not been prepared for what awaited them out in the field. The all white officer corps was not prepared to accept the Black officers into the Ward Room with all the rights and privileges of white officers. Most of the white officers, both Northerners and Southerners, had never been to school with Black students and were not ready to live and work with them on ships and bases. The senior officers proved to be especially hostile to the new breed of officer.
Kenny Boyd did not survive his first duty station, the USCGC Dallas, at Governors Island, New York. He received such adverse fitness reports from his senior officers that he had to be removed from the ship. An Academy graduate is required to serve 5 years of obligated service before he can resign his commission. Kenny Boyd was not allowed complete his obligated service.

Merle Smith was forced to resign his regular commission prior to the earliest date he could have retired. He was given a commission in the Reserves to accumulate retirement points. He did not retire in 1986 with his Academy class. He retired in 1988.

London Steverson was promoted to (0-4), lieutenant commander in 1978, but he did not receive a promotion during the last ten years of his career. In 6 years he was passed over 5 times for promotion to (0-5), Commander. By an Act of Congress an officer attaining the rank of 0-4 is allowed to remain on active duty until the earliest date that he is eligible for retirement. Lcdr Steverson was forced to retire in July 1988 with 20 years of active service.

His last two years of active duty at Governors Island, New York were very aggravating. After completing a tour of duty at the National Narcotics Border Interdiction System (NNBIS), he was relieved of all responsibilities. He was required to report for work every morning, but he had no official position. The one thing that he was required to do was to appear for drug tests once per month. Drug screening test were officially required to be random, but in Lcdr Steverson’s case they were targeted and regular. On one particular occasion when he was not scheduled for a drug test and he took a late lunch in uptown Manhattan, he was required to report to the Personnel Office upon his return to base. He was ordered to submit a urine sample several hours after the test had been conducted.

Considering the number of "false positives" that occured at the drug screening laboratory and the number of samples that were mis-labeled, it is a small miracle that Steverson was able to retire without being accused of failing to pass a drug test.
After 20 years his Coast Guard career fizzled out. It ended with a whimper. There was no retirement party or luncheon; no Achievement Medal or citation; not even a hand shake from his boss, Captain John Lennon, Chief of Atlantic Area and Third District Operations who was his commanding officer, at the time. One Friday afternoon, someone sneaked into his office and left his official retirement certificate on top of the desk. And that was it.

After all the retirement luncheons he has organized for other officers, and all of the dollars that he had contributed to buy retirement gifts for other retiring officers, his last day on active duty was marked by a long walk to the Governors Island Ferry and a long ride home.



Blogger ichbinalj said...

It was not uncommon for innocent men to be convicted of drug use. There were many cases of false positive test results. Often urine sample were mis-labeled and mis-handled. It would be easy to deliberately framed someone for a drug use violation. It could also be accidental and inadvertent.

The case of Richard Shelton is illustrative.
Sailor found guilty of cocaine use but keeps retirement benefits
By TIM MCGLONE, The Virginian-Pilot
© August 5, 2006 | Last updated 1:58 AM Aug. 5

NORFOLK - A Navy jury found a petty officer with 19 years of service guilty of using cocaine but spared him a bad conduct discharge.

The jury, after deliberating two hours Thursday, found Richard L. Shelton guilty of the misdemeanor drug charge despite his testimony that he had never used drugs and other testimony that the Navy's drug testing process is flawed.

The five-member jury of officers and enlisted personnel sentenced Shelton to a reduction in rank from petty officer 1st class to petty officer 2nd class, 60 days of base restriction and forfeiture of two months' pay, Shelton's attorney, Donald W. Marcari, said Friday.

Sailor facing drug charge says testing full of flaws

"He was shocked" by the guilty verdict, Marcari said. "He's certainly not happy."

The jury's decision saves Shelton from losing his retirement benefits, which Marcari estimated at about $600,000. Shelton works in maintenance administration at Oceana Naval Air Station and is a former coordinator of a urinalysis testing program.

However, Shelton still could face an other than honorable discharge if his command decides to pursue the case administratively, Marcari said. The command at Shelton's unit also must approve the jury's sentence.

Shelton, 38, a native of Oklahoma, faced a court-martial Wednesday and Thursday. Shelton tested positive for cocaine during a routine urinalysis in January, according to court records.

Shelton testified that he had never used drugs and that his previous 13 drug tests had been clean. His girlfriend told the court that she was with him the three days before the drug test and never saw cocaine in their presence.

Marcari presented testimony that claimed flaws in the Navy's handling of urine samples and in the testing process.

Witnesses said the Department of Defense had found switched and tampered urine samples at the Navy's Jacksonville lab during an inspection the same week Shelton's urine was being tested.

"I respect the jury's decision, but I thought there was plenty of reasonable doubt," Marcari said. "I think there was 15 different areas of reasonable doubt I presented."

Navy prosecutors did not respond to requests for comment Friday.

Reach Tim McGlone at (757)446-2343 or

4:49 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

Take for example, on the other hand, the case of Coast Guard petty officer Richard Reed. He had tested positive for cocaine after a routine urinalysis. He was tried by a Special Court-martial. Lcdr Steverson was assigned as his detailed military counsel. At trial the Defense called as a witness the accused, Petty Officer Reed. He testified that he had been paid the day before the drug test. He received mostly $100 bills. After handling the money and not washing his hands, he licked his fingers on several occasions. He believed that the $100 bills had cocaine residue on them. That was his best guess as to how the cocaine had entered his system.
The Defense called as a witness a Coast Guard Intelligence Officer. He testified that the monetary bill of choice for the drug pusher is the $100 bill. Most of the $100 bills in circulation have small trace amounts of cocaine on them. It is possible to pick up small amounts of cocaine by simply handling $100 bills.
The Defense also called as a witness an Army chemist at a military base in Ramstein, Germany. He testified that it was his opinion that a man could pick up enough cocaine residue from handling $100 bills to test positive for cocaine at a random drug screeing.
These facts were argued to the jury. The jury found that there was reasonable doubt concerning Petty Officer Reed's use of cocaine. He was found not guilty.
The Coast Guard Personnel Officer on Governor's Island, New York convened an administrative discharge board and discharged Petty Officer Reed anyway. Fortunately, his wife was also a Coast Guard petty officer, and they had a house on Governors Island. He only had to find a job off base so that they could continue to make ends meet.

5:07 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

18 Jul 2008
For the Coast Guard Academy (CGA) class of 2011, an academy officer 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. West Point, Annapolis, and USAFA's cadets/midshipmen reflect those numbers. 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 officer corps.

Why would diversity help? It would foster a welcoming environment for future servicemen and women. Many black officers complain that there is a lack of representation in the senior ranks. Admiral Manson Brown is the only hope for Commandant right now. With the all-but-confirmed selection of Vice Admiral Vivien Crea for January 2009, the probability of an African-American president preceding a black CG Commandant is much higher.
Across the board, black officers account for around 6% of the flag officers in the Department of Defense; there is a significant disparity between those numbers and the percentage of senior officers in the Coast Guard, due in part to the flawed (but widely shared) recruiting methods of the past four decades.

Posted by Webster M. Smith

2:27 AM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

The media has reported the CG’s racially insensitive events over the past few years. With not a single person brought to justice for those occurrences, many black servicemen and servicewomen feel as though they do not matter. I don’t believe that is the message that the Coast Guard is intending to spread. Merle J. Smith and London Steverson were the first black cadets to graduate. In 2006, the fortieth anniversary of CDR Smith’s accomplishment saw no fanfare. In 2006, the thirtieth anniversary of an equally important first, received fanfare... banners, speeches, and a lot of attention from the local media.

Posted by Webster M. Smith

2:28 AM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

Diversity is a positive for all races. It aids tolerance and understanding; it alleviates fear of the unknown. It would help the Coast Guard’s image and cohesion to emphasize attracting black talent. Talent is the operative word. Nearly 90% of all admitted black cadets are sent to preparatory school for one or two years before attending the Academy. When the few that make it through the Naval Academy Preparatory School arrive at the academy, they see that they already know most of their black classmates from the previous year’s gauntlet. This may contribute to a sense of inferiority in relation to their classmates who came straight from high school.

Find talent by looking in the right places. In 1973, the admissions team scoured the densely populated black areas of the country—looking for any kid to hand an acceptance letter. That following year, 28 black cadets showed up in a class of 400+. This was the highest percentage of first year black cadets ever. By 1977, few had survived to see graduation. In 1978, 4 out of 20 made it; one came so close to being reverted that he was honored at graduation for pulling through. Since then, the average black population has hovered around 3% of their class.

Posted by Webster M. Smith

2:30 AM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

Across the board, black officers account for around 6% of the flag officers in the Department of Defense; there is a significant disparity between those numbers and the percentage of senior officers in the Coast Guard, due in part to the flawed (but widely shared) recruiting methods of the past four decades.

There are intelligent black men and women, all over the country. Show no racial preference in whom you accept; but effectively present opportunity to black kids at the same elite schools that supply the majority. Decrease the dependence on minority cadets coming from preparatory schools.

Recruiting, accepting, and retaining black talent in the USCG will alleviate many of the race relations issues in the service. It would remove the burden on RADM Manson K Brown, whose odds on becoming the first black Commandant are stacked against him.

Potential black CGA cadets are out there, accepting admittance to Ivy League colleges, top 20 ranked state schools, and the DOD academies. They don’t need preparatory school or any sort of advantage or pass. They are the best too. In a year when Admiral Allen witnessed the valedictorian graduation of a destined, brilliant, young black woman—this is his team’s opportunity to mandate recruiting more like her and letting the numbers and qualifications speak for themselves.

Posted by Webster M. Smith

2:31 AM  

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