African American History Month: Carrying on a proud tradition

The crew of CG-2307 Lt. Eric Wilson, Lt. Bryan Brownlee, Lt. j.g. Lewis Johnson, Petty Officer 2nd Class Katrina Cooley, Petty Officer 3rd Class Sudan Hameen, and Lt. Terdell Nash. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The crew of CG-2307 Lt. Eric Wilson, Lt. Bryan Brownlee, Lt. j.g. Lewis Johnson, Petty Officer 2nd Class Katrina Cooley, Petty Officer 3rd Class Sudan Hameen, and Lt. Terdell Nash. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Written by Lt. Bryan Brownlee, Aviation Training Center Mobile

February is African American History Month which represents a period of reflection on the contributions of African Americans throughout our Nation’s history. These important contributions have also helped fuel the prosperity of the United States Coast Guard.

From Capt. Michael Healy, the first African American commissioned officer and commanding officer of a Coast Guard cutter, to Capt. Bobby Wilks, the first African American Coast Guard aviator, the contributions of African Americans have benefited the service in numerous unforeseen ways and their persistence and fortitude to serve, through tremendous adversity, have allowed the Coast Guard to continue to evolve and become an organization that better reflects the diversity of the public it serves.

Lt. Wilson and Lt. j.g. Johnson with Tuskegee Airman Calvin Moret. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Lt. Wilson and Lt. j.g. Johnson with Tuskegee Airman Calvin Moret. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Last week, an airplane took off from Aviation Training Center Mobile on its way to New Orleans to share the Coast Guard experiences of its crew and to encourage young people of all backgrounds to consider serving their country as members of our service. On its own, this may not seem significant, but in honor of African American History Month, ATC Mobile put together an all African American aircrew to fly this mission.

As the co-pilot on this flight, there was a sense of history as the crew prepared to discuss our Coast Guard experiences with the youth of New Orleans alongside heroes like Mr. Calvin Moret of the world-famous Tuskegee Airmen. We hoped to inspire them as African American pioneers inspired those of us on the crew. But, as it would turn out, our flight would also become a part of history as this flight of CG-2307 was the first documented Coast Guard aircraft ever to be flown by an all African American crew.

Thursday’s flight was a tribute to the sacrifices made by those that came before who endured adversity and broke down barriers. I am proud to have flown alongside aircraft commander Lt. Eric J. Wilson, Lt. Terdell Nash, Lt. j.g. Lewis Johnson, Petty Officer 2nd Class Katrina Cooley and Petty Officer 3rd Class Sudan Hameen on this historic flight that illustrates the strides the Coast Guard continues to make in order to harness the strength of diversity.

The flight crew with some of the children they met at the Gentilly Branch Public Library in New Orleans. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The flight crew with some of the children they met at the Gentilly Branch Public Library in New Orleans. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

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