Monday, May 08, 2006

Early Coast Guard Duty Assignments

Ensign (O-1) Steverson's first duty assignment out of the Academy was in Antarctic research logistical support. In July of 1968 he reported aboard the Coast Guard Cutter (CGC) Glacier [] (WAGB-4), an [[icebreaker]] operating under the control of the [[U.S. Navy]], and served as a deck watch officer and head of the Marine Science Department. He traveled to [[Antarctica]] during two patrols from July 1968 to August 1969, supporting the research operations of the [[National Science Foundation]]'s Antarctic Research Project in and around [[McMurdo Station]]. During the 1969 patrol the CGC Glacier responded to an international distress call from the Argentine icebreaker ''General SanMartin'', which they freed.

In December 1969, Ensign Steverson was promoted to Lieutenant (junior grade) (O-2).
He received another military assignment from 1970 to 1972 in [[Juneau, Alaska]] as a Search and Rescue Officer. Before being certified as an Operations Duty Officer, it was necessary to become thoroughly familiar with the geography and topography of the Alaskan remote sites. Along with his office mate, Ltjg Herbert "Bertie" Pell, the son of Connecticut Senator Claireborne Pell, Steverson was sent on a familiarization tour of Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force bases. The bases visited were Base Kodiak, Base Adak Island, and Attu Island, in the Aleutian Islands.[]

Lt Steverson, the Karate Instructor at Juneau Community Center

Steverson was very active in the local Juneau, Alaska community when he was not on duty. He played basketball on the Alaska Native Sisterhood Team and participated in the Gold Metal Tournament.

He had been a karate student at the Chuck Norris Tang-Soo-Do Karate School in Redondo Beach, California. Chuck's brother, Willie Norris, personally had signed him up. Willie would later volunteer for the military and be assigned to Viet Nam, where he was killed by a sniper's bullet.
At the local Juneau Community Center classes were free for anyone interested in learning the ancient art of hand to hand combat.

In 1973 after being transferred to Coast Guard Headquarters, Lt Steverson would enter the Washington DC Area Navy and Marine Corps Open Karate Tournament and win two first prize trouphies. He took first place in Free-style kata competition and first place in Kumite Free-style sparring.

Steverson was the Duty Officer on September 4, 1971 when an emergency call was received that an Alaskan Airlines Boeing 727 airline passenger plane was overdue at Juneau airport. This was a Saturday and the weather was foggy with drizzling rain. Visibility was less than one-quarter mile. The 727 was enroute to Seattle, Washington from Anchorage, Alaska with a scheduled stop in Juneau. There were 109 people onboard and there were no survivors. Steverson received the initial alert message and began the coordination of the search and rescue effort. In a matter of hours the wreckage from the plane, with no survivors, was located on the side of a mountain about five miles from the airport. For several weeks the body parts were collected and reassembled in a staging area in the National Guard Armory only a few blocks from the Search and Rescue Center where Steverson first received the distress broadcast.[]. Later a full investigation with the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the cause of the accident was equipment failure.[]

Another noteworthy item is Steverson's involvement as an Operations Officer during the seizure of two Russian fishing vessels, the ''Kolevan'' and the ''Lamut'' for violating an international agreement prohibiting foreign vessels from fishing in United States [[territorial waters]]. The initial attempts at seizing the Russian vessels almost precipitated an international incident when the Russian vessels refused to proceed to a U. S. port, and instead sailed toward the [[Kamchatka Peninsula]]. Russian [[MIG]] fighter planes were scrambled, as well as American fighter planes from [[Elmendorf Air Force Base]] before the Russian vessels changed course and steamed back to [[Anchorage, Alaska|Anchorage]], where a [[U.S. Attorney]] was waiting to prosecute the vessels for the violations of fishing treaties.

Because of his icebreaker experience, Steverson was later made the Seventeenth District's first Ice Operations Officer. With the increased activity at [[Point Barrow]] and on the [[Alaska North Slope|North Slope]] of Alaska brought on by the discovery of the vast oil reserves, more Coast Guard icebreakers were making patrols North of the [[Bering Sea]], where icebreaking is necessary.

On 1 February 1972 Lieutenant (junior grade) Steverson was promoted to a full Lieutenant (O-3). In July 1972 Lt Steverson was reassigned from Alaska to Washington, D.C. to become the Chief of the newly formed Minority Recruiting Section of the USCG, and was charged with working toward desegregating the nearly all-white USCG, starting with the United States Coast Guard Academy.

1973 Conference of Minority Recruiters

One of the first thing that he did when he took over as Chief of the Minority Recruiting Branch (G-PMR-3) was to convene a conference of all of the Minority Recruiters from every district in the continental USA. It was important to see who they were and what they were doing. He wanted to make sure they were all marching to the beat of the same drum, that they all understood what the mandate was, and that they all knew who was running the show. He wanted their loyalty, and their dedication to the mission. Most of all, he wanted them to know that a new day had dawned and he would not be satisfied with business as usual. Lt(jg) Milt Moore in St. Louis was assigned the task of organizing and hosting the Conference in St. Louis. They all came; Charles Harper from Detroit, Gil Montoya from Los Angeles, Chief Lee Leyba from Albuquerque, Victor Jernigan, Lt Percy Norwood, Earl Martin from Headquarters, Vince Chavez, and others.
There were planned strategic efforts being made to recruit minorities before the formation of (G-PMR-3), but Capt Bill Butler came with a fresh approach. It was along the lines of “it takes a thief to catch a thief”. If we wanted to recruit more minorities, we needed to put minority officers and petty officers in charge of the program. The ideas of white men had been tried and they had not worked. All of their efforts through the years had come down to the exasperating expression that ‘The Coast Guard cannot compete with the Ivy League schools and Annapolis and West Point for the few QUALIFIED Black high school graduates each year, because we could not offer them what the competition could offer in terms of scholarships and guarantees of post graduate training. So, we were content to take the occasional lost soul who would settle for our less attractive offer.” That is how Captain Leslie D. High and Commander Paul Schroeder in G-PMR explained it.

One thing that had been done in the late 1960s was to give direct commissions as Ensigns to 16 Black graduates of the all Black land-grant colleges in the South that had been created after the Civil War to educated the children of the freed slaves. These Black direct commission recruiting officers would only be allowed to work in the Office of Personnel in recruiting billets. Some of the colleges that they came from were Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial, Alcorn, North Carolina A and T, Philander Smith, Texas A and M, etc.
This was a good idea and it had a noble purpose, but it backfired. The white OCS graduates and Academy graduates resented the 16 Black direct commission officers because they felt that the Black officers had received special treatment. It was felt that they did not earn their commissions, and that they were second class officers. The officer corps was about 99.44 percent white. These white officers had not been briefed concerning the new strategy employed by the Office of Personnel. The 16 Black direct commission officers were dropped into a virtual cauldron. It was difficult for them to get any cooperation from any officers outside of the Office of Personnel, many of whom had rotated in from other areas; such as, aviation, operations, port security, law enforcement, marine inspection, and reserves.

There was also a cultural backlash. The Black officers had come from all Black segregated schools and many had had only limited exposure to all white office environments. So, they were not acclimated to compromising in their speech and in their dress. They were Black, and they walked, talked, and dressed Black. That meant that their clothes might not have been expensive, but they were classy and in style. They dressed like in Gentlemens' Quarterly magazine. Their accessories were European. For example, their suits were cut to fit skin tight; so, wallets, keys, money, and other things could not be carried in their pockets. They would create unsightly bulges in the suits. That meant that they had to carry men’s clutch bags, like the men in Italy and France had been carrying for years. These clutch bags for men had not become haute couture in the United States.
When these Black officers with their clutch bags reported for duty at Coast Guard Headquarters, the white officers laughed at them and called them queer. It was said that they were carrying ladies purses. They did not fit in.

Moreover, during the 60s men wore their hair long, all men. Black men sported the Afro, natural hair style. It was not conducive to the military service cap and other head gear. So, many of the Black direct commission officer would not wear their dress service caps. They would carry them in a bag and they would go outside uncovered. Some were even seen wearing their dress blue jackets unbuttoned. Or, if they wore the service caps, when they removed the cap, their hair would resemble a bird’s nest. They would have to go to the toilette to freshen up after removing the service cap. This was called picking out your Afro.

Lcdr Maxie Berry, Patsy Berry, and CWO2 Maloyd Berry.

Mr. Bill Hudson; Coast Guard Admiral; and, Maxie Berry.
The Office of Civil Rights, under Mr. William T. Hudson, and Lt. Maxie M. Berry Junior, did what they could to assist the integration of the direct commission officers into the Headquarters family. It was a tough job and turned out to be a losing battle. One of the direct commission officers was Ensign Earl Martin. He became my assistant in the Minority recruiting Section (G-PMR-3). Later he would be replaced by Ltjg Walter Sapp.

In the Navy, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt had authorized the Black Navy and enlisted men to wear the Afro. In fact, grooming standards were relaxed all around.

With Roebuck "Pops" Staple of The Staple Singers at PUSH-EXPO in 1976.

Lt. Steverson at PUSH-EXPO Convention, Chicago, ILL in 1976

Long hair and beards were allowed. Admiral Zumwalt was given this advice from Lt Jerry Moore, the Chief of Navy Minority Recruiting at the Washington Navy Yard. Jerry Moore had coined the phrase “You can be Black, and Navy, too”. In fact, he had built an entire advertising campaign around that theme. It was carried in most major Black media, such as, Ebony, Jet, Black Sports magazine, and others. Ensign Earl Martin introduces Lt Steverson to Jerry Moore. The Coast Guard Minority Recruiting program was modeled along the lines of the Navy’s program. Jerry Moore showed Steverson all the things that had worked for him and the US Navy. Jerry Moore’s father was the Reverend Jerry Moore, Senior. He was a Washington, DC City Councilman.

While Lieutenant Steverson was charged first and foremost with recruiting cadets for the Academy (because that is where the bulk of the career officers would come from), he was also requested to find minority college graduates who were willing receive direct commissions as lawyers and as aviators. These officers were already college graduates and had no need to attend the four year Academy, instead they received a three month orientation at the Coast Guard Officer Training Center, Yorktown, Virginia. One of his most noteworthy potential recruits was Jill Brown. She was an African-American female who was related to one of the Tuskegee Airmen. When he was informed by a friend working at the Federal Aviation Administration that Jill Brown was talking to Lt. Jerry Moore about a career in the Navy aviation program, he quickly set up a meeting with Jill Brown. After explaining to her the differences between the Navy's Avaition program and the Coast guard's program, Jill Brown was ready to sign up to become the Coast Guard's first female aviator. She was more than qualified; she was over qualified. She was young. She was stunningly beautiful. She had the training, the experience, the hours of instrument and visual flight time. There was only one thing missing as far as the Coast Guard was concerned. She was not white. The Coast Guard Chief of Personnel did not want the Coast Guard's first female aviator to be an African-American female. I had to tell Jill Brown she could not be the Coast Guard's first female aviator, because she was Black.
The Coast Guard refused to open the Aviation specialty to females because Vivian Crea was in Officers' candidate School in Yorktown, Virginia. They waited for her to graduate and then sent her to flight School.

Vice Admiral Vivian Crea.
Vivian Crea's graduation as the First Coast Guard Female Aviator was hailed with great publicity and fanfare. This was painful to watch because I had found the Coast Guard a much more qualified candidate. They would not take her because she was Black.

Vivian Crea is now the Vice Commandant of the U S Coast Guard. Her fairy godfather has guided her career.

Jill Brown did not suffer from the slur. Lt Jerry Moore was glad to get her to sign with the Navy. She signed with the Navy and received her share of publicity. Her face and profile graced the cover of many magazines and other publications.
Lt. Jill Brown's picture appeared on the cover of the 28 November 1974 JET magazine.
Lt Steverson graduated from The National Law Center, George Washington University in 1977 and was assigned to the Maritime and International Law Division at Coast Guard Headquarters.

Among other things, his staff assignments were to act as the legal officer assigned to the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands and the Deepwater Ports Project. In 1979 he was transferred to the 12th Coast Guard District Legal Office, 630 Sansome Street, San Francisco, California where he was an Assistant District Legal Officer and an Assistant U. S. Attorney for the collection of Civil Penalties under the Federal Boating Safety Act from 1979 to 1982.

As an Assistant District Legal Officer, he was required to defend as well as prosecute military members who had been charged with violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Occasionally he was asked to represent other officers in administrative actions involving sexual harassment and discrimination. One such case was the Case of Christine D. Balboni against the Department of Transportation and the United States Coast Guard (DOT Case No. 82-177). Ensign Balboni was one of the first female graduates of the Coast Guard Academy. She graduated in the Class of 1981 and was assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter RUSH, a high endurance law enforcement vessel stationed in Alameda, California. She filed a formal complaint of sexual harassment against three senior officers onboard the RUSH. She alleged that false special fitness reports had been written concerning her and that the captain of the ship had requested her immediate transfer off the ship long before her normal rotation date. After no other lawyer would take her case, Commander Ronald Mathews, Chief of The 12th District Legal Office, assigned Lieutenant Commander Steverson to represent Ensign Balboni in a formal departmental administrative hearing before a federal administrative law judge. The charges made by Ensign Balboni were determined to be valid. The relief granted was to have the false special fitness reports removed from her service record and destroyed. She was promoted to the next higher rank. Her career was saved. No disciplinary action was taken against the offending officers.[] []

In 1982 he became the Chief of the Investigating Division at the Marine Inspection Office New York, NY. The Coast Guard did not have a separate Judge Advocate General's Corp (JAG). Coast Guard lawyers were called "legal specialists". These law specialists were line officers and could rotate out of the regular legal billets. Frequently these tours of duty out of specialty were in law related areas.

CO of MIO,NY, Capt. John Hill; Chief Inspector, LCDR John Johnson, and Chief Investigator; Mrs. John Hill; and, Lcdr. London Steverson, after The Statue of Liberty relighting Ceremony and the Parade of Tall Ships.

As the Chief Marine Investigating Officer for the Marine Inspection Office in Battery Park, New York his duties were similar to those of a city prosecutor. With a staff of ten investigating officers, he would investigate marine disasters for negligence and causes of action. Any marine personnel found to have violated a marine safety law would be charged and tried before a Coast Guard administrative law judge at the World Trade Center. In the case of a major marine disaster with multiple loss of life, a formal Board of Inquiry would be convened under the direction of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). These Inquiries often would result in promulgation of new marine safety regulations under Title 46 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). One such incident was the Case of The Joan LaRie III, a charter fishing vessel that sank of the coast of New Jersey on October 24, 1982.

In 1986 he was detailed to the National Narcotics Border Interdiction System (NNBIS) at the World Trade Center under the Office of Vice President at the time, George Herbert Walker Bush.

When he retired in June 1988 he became the first African-American Coast Guard Academy graduate to retire as a regular line office from the service, and held the rank of Lieutenant-Commander during his last 10 years of service.

He retired to Dumont, New Jersey and practiced law in New York, with a focus on family law and defending Coast Guardsmen accused of federal crimes. He is a member of the New York State, [[Association of the Bar of the City of New York|New York City]], and Tennessee [[Bar Association]]s.



Blogger ichbinalj said...

LTJG Jeanine McIntosh, born in Jamaica and raised in Florida, became the first Black female U.S. Coast Guard aviator in June 2005. Her father, Conrol McIntosh, pinned golden wings on her uniform.
LTJG McIntosh, 26, said the experience made her aware that barriers still exist for Blacks and women. Although her name will be inscribed in history books, LTJG McIntosh said the experience also has been humbling.
"I'm just really honored," McIntosh said, after the winging ceremony at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas. "There's no other word for it."

1:36 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

Bill OK'd to increase Blacks at Coast Guard Academy.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The House voted overwhelmingly for a bill that includes a provision giving members of Congress a say over who is admitted to the U.S. Coast Guard's 1,000-cadet service academy in New London, Conn.

The measure — part of a multi-billion-dollar authorization bill that passed 385-11 on Friday — was sponsored by Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., who argues that congressional nominations are needed to help increase the number of Blacks enrolled at the CGA and graduate as commissioned officers.

The CGA is the only service academy that does not have congressional nominations and has no requirements for geographical distribution.

Four Blacks graduated in the spring. More recently, five Blacks were admitted for the Class of 2013. At present, its four classes include 25 Blacks.

5:02 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

Brothers, brothers everywhere, and not a one for sale.

2:10 AM  

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