African American History Month: Honoring the Past, Securing the Future

African American History Month: Honoring the Past, Securing the Future

The Surface Force joins the Navy in commemorating African American History Month by recognizing the valiant efforts of African Americans in the Navy. We honor our legacy and pay tribute to our Sailors who have undauntedly and courageously contributed to the defense of our Nation.

Our Navy would not be what it is today without the contributions of African Americans who have paved the way for us. This month, you will see names like Doris Miller, the Golden 13, the Golden 14, and Carl Brashear. These individuals changed history, and we continue to share their stories.

Our Surface Force has also seen incredible individuals whose patriotism, determination, and courage we continue to honor. Today’s Surface Warriors stand proudly thanks to the leadership lessons, integrity, and perseverance of our predecessors:

dick turpin

Chief Gunner’s Mate John Henry “Dick” Turpin
John Henry Turpin enlisted in the Navy in November 1896 and was a member of USS Maine’s (ACR 1) crew when she was destroyed by an explosion in February 1898. He survived that disaster and the boiler explosion on USS Bennington (CV 20) in July 1905, as well as served aboard other ships before leaving active duty in 1916. He was recalled to service in 1917, when the U.S. entered World War I. In June of that year, Turpin became chief gunner’s mate on USS Marblehead (CL 12), becoming one of the Navy’s first African American chief petty officers.



Vice Adm. Samuel Lee Gravely, Jr.
Samuel Lee. Gravely, Jr. enlisted in the Navy Reserves in September 1942 and was trained as a fireman apprentice. A year later, he participated in V-12, a World War II college training program designed to meet an urgent need for wartime Navy and Marine Corps commissioned officers. In December 1944, Gravely successfully completed his midshipman training, becoming the first African American commissioned as an officer from the Navy Reserve Officer Training Course. After two years of service, Gravely was released from active duty in April 1946, then was recalled in 1949 to be a Navy recruiter, following President Truman’s executive order to desegregate the Armed Services. Gravely’s naval career came with many firsts: he was the first African American to command a U.S. Navy warship – USS Theodore E. Chandler (DD 717); the first African American to command an American warship under combat conditions since the Civil War – USS Taussig (DD 746); the first African American to command a major naval warship – USS Jouett (CG 29); the first African American admiral; the first African American to rise to the rank of vice admiral; and the first African American to command a U.S. Fleet – Commander, 3rd Fleet.



Adm. Joseph Paul Reason
Joseph Paul Reason reported to the U.S. Naval Academy as a Midshipman in June 1961 and was commissioned in June 1965. After his first sea tour, Reason shipped off to the Naval Nuclear Power School, becoming a Nuclear Surface Warfare Officer. As a lieutenant commander, he served as naval aide to U.S. President Jimmy Carter from December 1976 to June 1979. In 1996, Reason became the first African American officer in the United States Navy to become a four-star admiral when he took command of the Atlantic Fleet. From 1996 to 1999, he led more than 120,000 personnel, 190 ships and 1,300 aircraft at 17 naval bases.

It’s important to acknowledge the achievements of our past Sailors and recognize the obstacles they faced to help shape the Surface Force we know today. During African American History Month, we pay tribute to trailblazers who forever changed the history of the United States Navy and charted a course for today’s fleet to follow as we secure our future.



CNSP 2019 Highlights

VADM Brown at GG

Over the past year, the Surface Force has done great things. Every day in seas and cities around the world, the work and presence of the U.S. Navy Sailors make a difference. They help ensure that we have combat ready ships and battle-minded crews, while preparing for the high-end fight. These ideas were echoed throughout the year, in training, commissioning of new ships, squadrons, and day-to-day operations. As we move into 2020, let’s reflect on a few of these highlights, while looking forward to the new year.

Commissioning Ceremonies

Indianapolis Commissioning

Eight ships were commissioned in 2019, including two destroyers, USS Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001) and USS Paul Ignatius (DDG 117), as well as six littoral combat ships (LCS), USS Wichita (LCS 13), USS Billings (LCS 15), USS Tulsa (LCS 16), USS Indianapolis (LCS 17), USS Charleston (LCS 18), and USS Cincinnati (LCS 20). The Navy has built 68 destroyers over the last 30 years, and within the next five years, the Navy will have 66 LCS crews. 

JOOD Course


The inaugural class of the Junior Officer of the Deck (JOOD) course graduated during a ceremony at Naval Base San Diego, Jul. 17, 2019. This four-week course, a new addition to the revised Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) career path, includes training in a broad range of integrated bridge fundamentals. With this course, newly commissioned ensigns now attend both the Basic Division Officer Course (BDOC) and JOOD to prepare them to drive ships and lead Sailors. It’s all part of an overall process to prepare SWOs from Division Officer to Commanding Officer, ensuring they can drive, fight, and eventually lead combat ready ships to own the fight.

Vice Adm. Brown’s Three Key Takeaways


Vice Adm. Richard Brown reminded us that the U.S. Navy has the premier surface force in the world. Specifically,

  1. What We Are
  •         We are a Surface Force second to none that controls the seas and provides the Nation with naval combat power when and where needed.
  •         We are the best, the fastest, the toughest, the smartest and the premier Surface Force in the world. Embrace this reality and act like it. Don’t let anyone on our team believe or say otherwise.
  1.       What We Have
  •         The Surface Force has combat ready ships, battle-minded crews and an unrelenting drive to a culture of excellence.
  •         We are already making a difference by working closely with Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), Fleet Commanders, as well as utilizing the Perform to Plan (P2P) process.
  •         We are seeing dividends generated by the new Surface Force Training and Readiness Manual (SFTRM) and are delivering early wins by giving Commanding Officers time back for them to best prepare for the fight.
  •         We have a SWO Training Continuum second to none with state-of-the-art shiphandling trainers (M/I-NSSTs and MSTCs) and combat systems trainers, such as the Combined Integrated Air and Missile Defense and Air Trainer (CIAT) and On-Demand Trainers (ODTs).
  1.       What We Will Be
  •         The future of the Surface Force includes the Navy’s next guided-missile frigate (FFG(X)), Flight III Destroyers (FLT III DDG), Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MDUSV), Large Displacement Unmanned Surface Vessels (LDUSV), Large Surface Combatants (LSC), Naval Operational Architecture and mainstreamed Littoral Combat Ships (LCS).
  •         Within the next five years, the Navy will have 66 LCS crews. By comparison, we have built 68 destroyers over the past 30 years.
  •         We are making investments in weapons, sensors, C4I, cyber, people and readiness for the fight to come.
  •         We must condition our officers and crews to have the tactical knowledge and proficiency, initiative and grit needed to fully use these new capabilities with maximum lethality against any adversary.

Brown’s takeaways have paved the way for the Surface Force in 2020.



To encourage innovation, experimentation, and combat readiness, Vice Adm. Richard Brown, established of Surface Development Squadron 1 (SURFDEVRON) 1 during a ceremony, May 22. SURFDEVRON 1 integrates unmanned surface vessels (USV) and support fleet experimentation to accelerate the delivery of new warfighting concepts and capabilities to the fleet. The standup is being executed in phases over the next few years until it reaches full capacity and capability.

Modified Navigation, Seamanship, and Shiphandling Trainers (M-NSST)

USS Stennis NSST

The Modified Navigation, Seamanship and Shiphandling Trainers, (M-NSST) was completed earlier this year. It was launched to improve training efficiency and effectiveness and to reduce training costs. The M-NSST has been implemented in Rota, Spain, San Diego, Pearl Harbor, Norfolk, Everett, Wash., Mayport, Fla., Bahrain, Yokosuka, Japan; and Sasebo, Japan. The Surface Navy’s M-NSST shows a continued dedication to excellence, and the Navy isn’t stopping there. Construction for other Integrated NSST (I-NSST) sites are underway and are scheduled to be operational in 2024. 

With 2020 on the horizon, we look forward to the Surface Navy Association (SNA) 32nd National Symposium, Jan. 14-16. The theme of the symposium is “Owning Tomorrow’s Fight Today,” a topic which Vice Adm. Brown discussed recently in an article he wrote for USNI.


Remembering Pearl Harbor and Ensign Herbert Jones

My Post

On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941 at 7:48 a.m. Hawaii Standard Time, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a massive surprise attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s base at Pearl Harbor.

Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor in two waves, as a preventative action to keep the U.S. from interfering with its military actions in the Pacific Theater.

Thousands of men and women lost their lives while defending their ships, their fellow Americans, and their country. We must remember these people and their countless acts of valor during the attacks.

One act of valor came from Ensign Herbert C. Jones, U.S. Navy Reserve. Jones was commissioned Nov. 14, 1940 and reported to the battleship USS California (BB 44) at Pearl Harbor two weeks later.

On Dec. 7, 1941, the 23-year-old ensign was about to relieve the officer of the deck on the USS California when the attacks began. During the first wave, a torpedo and a bomb hit the ship. Jones dove into a smoke-filled hatchway and crawled along oil-slick decks to rescue a wounded Sailor before passing out in the fumes. Once he regained consciousness, Jones saw an anti-aircraft battery without a leader and without waiver, took command, as he staggered to his feet.

When the second wave of Japanese planes came in, Jones fired his guns until he was out of ammunition. USS California’s ammunition hoist was damaged during the attack, so Jones quickly organized and led a party of volunteers to go below decks and pass ammunition up by hand.

Just as the shells began to reach the battery, Jones was wounded by a bomb explosion. Two men tried to remove him from the ship, which was on fire, but he refused to let them do so. Jones feared for the lives of his rescuers, who heard him say, “Leave me alone. I am done for. Get out of here before the magazines go off.”

For his heroism during the attack, Jones was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

At the headquarters of Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet onboard Naval Amphibious Base (NAB) Coronado, the Flag Mess is dedicated to Ensign Jones and the sacrifice he made.

There is no higher honor than to serve and do so in harm’s way, just as Ensign Jones did. Sailors today carry on this legacy of toughness, initiative, integrity, and accountability. As we remember Pearl Harbor and those lost, please remember and pass on these stories of heroism and sacrifice.

American Indian Heritage Month

The Surface Force joins the nation in celebrating American Indians during National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month throughout the month of November. This year, we celebrate and reflect on the theme, “Honoring Our Nations: Building Strength Through Understanding.”

Since 1994, in the month of November, we have recognized American Indians and Alaska Natives for their respect of the Earth, having served with valor in our nation’s conflicts, and for their many distinct and important contributions to the United States, including our Surface Navy.

American Indians and Alaska Natives have served honorably in the United States Navy for more than 200 years. Their contributions to the strength and security of our nation attests the rich legacy of the first Americans.

The Surface Force would like to share with you some of the greatest contributions and heroic actions of individuals and teams of American Indian heritage in the Navy.

Navajo Code Talkers

Navajo Code TalkersThe Navajo Code Talkers applied their ancestral language to create what we remember as an unbreakable code which was critical to our Nation in combatting the Japanese forces within the World War II Pacific Theater. 29 Navajo Radio Operators that were new graduates from Marine Corps boot camp developed the code in seven weeks at Camp Elliot, California. And despite three weeks of intensive cryptologic examination by the Navy’s highly skilled codebreakers, the code was found to be unbreakable.

Once the unbreakable code was authorized, the brave individuals were deployed to the frontlines in the Battle for Iwo Jima. Here, while under enemy fire, the Code Talkers used heavy, noisy radios to convey their coded messages. Major Howard Connor, 5thMarine Division signal officer, had six Code Talkers working nonstop during the first two days of the battle.

Connor once said, “Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.” Following this battle, the Navajo Code Talkers were then leveraged in the Battle of Guadalcanal through the occupation of Japan.

Although the Navajo Code Talkers were a tremendous help in World War II, the program was not unclassified until 1968, so our heroes, who paved the way for our victory during the war were unable to share the story of their unbreakable code until recently. Nevertheless, the shared experiences shaped these veterans into leaders for their people both on and off the Navajo reservation.

Admiral Joseph J. Clark

Joseph James ClarkAdmiral Clark, often called “J.J.” or “Jocko,” was a native of the Cherokee nation, and the first Native American to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy.

During World War I, Clark served on the cruiser USS North Carolina, which was engaged in convoying troops across the Atlantic. Following the war, Clark stayed at sea, serving on destroyers USS Aaron Ward, USS Aulick, and USS Brooks, later commanding the Brooks, and as Executive Officer of the USS Bulmer. Later, he became an instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy, 1923-1924.

Clark was aboard the carrier USS Yorktown when the United States entered World War II, and subsequently participated in the raid on the Marcus and Gilbert Islands in the Pacific. For conspicuous gallantry, he was awarded the Silver Star Medal.

In the rank of Rear Admiral, he was a Task Group Commander for carriers and screening vessels alternately with the First and Second Carrier Task Groups of the Pacific Fleet. For distinguished service in Okinawa, Ryukyus, and the Tokyo area, Clark awarded the Distinguished Service Medal (two awards), the Navy Cross, and Legion of Merit with Combat “V.”

In June 1945, Clark was appointed Chief, Naval Air Intermediate Training Command, Corpus Christi, Texas. The following year, he became Assistant Chief of Naval Operations for Air, and from November 1948 had duty afloat in command of Carrier Division Four and Carrier Division Three, with a tour in the interim, as Commander, Naval Air Bases, 11thand 12thDistricts.

Clark was designated Commander, First Fleet, in the Rank of Vice Admiral in March 1952, and three months later, was transferred to command of the Seventh Fleet. He was transferred on December 1, 1953, to the Retired List of the U.S. Navy, and advanced to the rank of Admiral on the bases of combat citations.

Following Clark’s retirement, Admiral Clark was a business executive in New York. His last position was Chairman of the Board of Hegeman Harris, Inc., an investment firm. Clark was made an honorary chief by both the Siox and Cherokee nations.

Commander Ernest E. Evans
Commander Ernest Evans, (half Cherokee and one quarter Creek), believed to be the third Native American graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, was an American Indian fighting captain we honor for his bravery and strength during the Battle off Samar in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Evans assumed command of the USS Johnston at her commissioning in October 1943. He commanded Johnston for the entirety of her service, being on board when she met her fate on October 25, 1944.

Ernest Evans

On the day of USS Johnston’s commissioning, Evans said to his crew on their fantail, “this is going to be a fighting ship. I intend to go into harm’s way. Anybody that doesn’t want go along had better get off right now.” Not a single member fled the ship, and Evans continued on to create one of the most battle-minded crews in history. He also said that he would never run from a fight, and just a year later, Evans proved true to his word.

On October 20, 1944, Johnston joined the Seventh Fleet’s Escort Task Unit 77.4 – call sign “Taffy 3” – to defend the north Leyte Gulf, east of Samar and off San Bernardino Strait, and the Leyte beachhead for General Douglas MacArthur’s return to the Philippines. Five days later, a pilot reported the Japanese Center Force rushing into Leyte Gulf and heading towards Taffy 3. Evans knew his ship and the others in the task were outgunned, but Evans gave the order to attack the Japanese fleet.

After ordering his engineers to lay a smokescreen between the Japanese force and Taffy 3, Johnston fired more than 200 rounds and 10 torpedoes at Japanese heavy cruiser, Kumano, which later sank. Although Johnston had hit Kumano, enemy shells managed to strike Johnston, causing widespread damage, along with casualties. Evans, himself, was critically injured. One of the shells blew off Evans’ shirt, he lost fingers on his left hand, and shrapnel was embedded into his face and neck. When the ship’s medic attempted to treat him, Evans brushed the man away, saying “go and take care of someone who needs it,” and continued to pilot the ship.

As Johnston sank into the depths off Samar Island, Japanese destroyer Yukikaze closed in on Johnston, with her crew lined up on the rails along with their commanding officer, and saluted the Johnston, paying tribute to the heroism of her crew and her captain.

For Johnston’s supreme courage during the Battle off Samar, she was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, and Evans posthumously received the Medal of Honor. Evans was the only one to receive the Medal of Honor for the entire battle.

“The skipper was a fighting man from the soles of his broad feet to the ends of his straight black hair,” said Ens. Robert C. Hagen, gunnery officer, Johnston. “He was an Oklahoman and proud of the Indian blood he had in him. We called him – though not to his face – the Chief. The Johnston was a fighting ship, but he was the heart and soul of her.”

If it were not for the Navajo Code Talkers, Admiral Joseph Clark, Engineman Second Class Michael E. Thornton, or Commander Ernest Evans, the United States Navy would not be what it is today. We thank these brave men for their service, as well as the Native Americans and Alaska Natives who continue to fight for our freedom today.

A diverse Navy helps our Surface Warriors to operate successfully around the globe by bringing together Sailors and civilians with different ideas, cultures, and capabilities. Integrating Sailors and civilians from diverse backgrounds into the force allows the Navy to recruit and retain the nation’s top talent from a vast pool of skilled personnel.

We are honored to have American Indians and Alaska Natives in our Surface Force, helping to carry on their centuries-old warrior tradition, serving with pride, courage, and distinction.

Honoring Hispanic Americans: Essential To The Blueprint Of Our Nation

Hispanic Heritage 2017

The Surface Force joins the Navy and the Nation to observe National Hispanic Heritage Month. Each year from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, we pay tribute to the contributions of generations of Hispanic Americans who have influenced, enriched, and strengthened of our Nation and our Navy.

This year’s theme from the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI) is “Honoring Hispanic Americans: Essential To The Blueprint Of Our Nation.”

Every day, Sailors and Marines of Hispanic American descent contribute to that blueprint as they support and defend the Constitution of the United States. They build on a legacy of previous patriots of Hispanic heritage, some of whom have had ships named in their honor, such as USS Garcia (DE 1040), USS Gonzalez (DDG 66), USS Farragut V (DDG 99), and USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115).

From Heritage Week to Heritage Month

The tradition of observing Hispanic heritage began in 1968, when then-President Lyndon B. Johnson designated a week in mid-September as National Hispanic Heritage Week  Proclaimed by Public Law 100-402 in 1988, National Hispanic Heritage Month begins Sept. 15, which is the anniversary of independence for five Latin American Countries – Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mexico declared its independence on Sept. 16, and Chile on Sept. 18.

National Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to celebrate a culture that is deeply rooted in our Nation. During the observance, all are encouraged to recognize and remember the invaluable service and selfless contributions that Hispanic Americans – active duty, reserve, and civilian – provide to our country. We operate as one unit, but we are strengthened by the diversity of our Sailors.

Shiphandling Efforts Inside NSST from a QMC’s Perspective

The following is a guest blog by Chief Quartermaster Justin Lewis, assigned to Amphibious transport dock ship USS San Diego (LPD 22).

The Navy is committed to making its mariners a safer and more combat-effective force focused on safety, readiness and training. One way to do that is through the shore-based Navigation, Seamanship and Shiphandling Trainer (NSST). Quartermaster Justin Lewis takes us into the NSST, which is an important tool for building watch team readiness.

Doing something over and over is one of the best ways to improve your skills. That’s true with just about anything, including driving a ship. But if your ship is tied to the pier for an extended period, it’s tough for the crew to their reps and sets. Navigation is a perishable skill, that’s why the shore-based Navigation, Seamanship and Shiphandling Trainer (NSST) is so important to the watch team readiness of our ship.

Last year, we returned home from deployment and are now in an extended maintenance period. In our time home, the majority of the crew turned over and many of the incoming personnel lacked experience in watch team situations because they’ve never been underway.

Because of the NSST, I’ve had the fortune of being in port and still developing my navigation and bridge team:

In the trainer, we are able to practice getting underway, open ocean transits, man overboard drills, restricted water transits, strait transits, as well as other special evolutions. With the NSST, we can do all of this training while in port – not burning fuel and without risk. The simulated environment allows watch teams to train to high-risk level scenarios. If they mess up, we pause the simulation, review the lessons learned, teach appropriate tactics that may be applied and reset the scenario. The trainer is a chance for all levels of the team – from a Seaman all the way to the Captain – to improve. The NSST simulates the exact characteristics of our own ship, so it is as real as possible without putting water under the keel.

Junior officers benefit from the NSST because it provides them live scenarios that expose them to challenges they will experience underway. This experience also enables them to earn signatures in their personnel qualification standard (PQS) toward qualifications and Surface Warfare Officer logbook entries:

NSST allows all bridge watchstanders a chance to get back in the navigation groove prior to the ship getting underway. Bridge watch teams can use it to get in cadence with each other and improve communication between the combat information center and the bridge.

Bottom line: The more we practice at the NSST, the better we work as a cohesive navigation team. So when it’s time to get the ship underway for operations, the team has a head start on the larger idea of Bridge Resource Management (BRM).

Chief Quartermaster Justin Lewis is assigned to Amphibious transport dock ship USS San Diego (LPD 22).


Training for the High-End Fight with the Naval Strike Missile

The following is a guest post by Lt. Georges Banks, the Combat Systems Officer aboard USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10).

USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) Departs for Combat Systems Ship Qualification Trials

Recently, four members of the USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) combat systems team and I traveled to Kongsberg, Norway. Konsberg is a beautiful city, but our trip was not a vacation. It was an outstanding opportunity for us to train and sharpen our warfighting skills as we prepare to deploy.

In an effort to bring a rapid, enhanced offensive capability to littoral combat ships (yes, it is as cool as it sounds) and work toward training a crew to win the high end fight, our team attended the Theory of Operations Course for the Naval Strike Missile (NSM) pilot course hosted by Kongsberg Defense and Aerospace (KDA).

PACIFIC OCEAN (Sept. 23, 2014) A Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile (NSM) is launched from the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) during missile testing operations off the coast of Southern California. The missile scored a direct hit on a mobile ship target. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zachary D. Bell)

Here’s what happened.

During our visit, we learned about NSM directly from the software engineers, project managers, and mission planners. The KDA team trained us on tactical and technical capabilities of this unique weapon. We learned about various tactics and planning tools that maximize the lethality of the weapon system. The NSM is a game-changer. It adds more punch to our lethal anti-ship capability.

Here are a few reasons why this trip was important.

  1. Achieving High-Velocity Learning

One of my favorite aspects of the course was the prioritization of hands-on training. We spent a lot of time planning missions and learning the system inside and out. Of the 10 days we spent in the classroom, seven were spent practicing system operation with a focus on a variety of tactical scenarios.

  1. Testing Tactical Scenarios

Our team was excited to stress the system, and by the second week, the instructors allowed us to break into teams to build individual scenarios to test against each other. The instructors were open to allowing us to “test” the system and remarked that we were by far the most inquisitive class they had led.

  1. Feeding Back for the Future

As it was the pilot course, we had the unique opportunity to provide real-time feedback to both the Norwegian instructors and the Commander, Naval Air Forces (CNAF) representatives tasked with building the course objectives for the future NSM training pipeline. It was refreshing to provide meaningful and direct feedback on such an important naval program.

Group Photo
Kongsberg, Norway – USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) GOLD crew members – Chief Fire Controlman Bryan Wells, Lt. Georges Banks, Fire Controlman 1st Class Joshua Walling, Operations Specialist 2nd Class Justin Nguyen, and Chief Fire Controlman Chief Samuel Murfree – posed with instructors of the Theory of Operations Course for the Naval Strike Missile (NSM). The team participated in training to help build their winning, high-end war fighting crew as the ship prepares for its first deployment this year.

Traveling to Norway to work with KDA was truly a career highlight – an amazing experience all-around!  By the end of the course, our team had made new friends, established a good working relationship with the KDA team, and enjoyed Norwegian cuisine and the beautiful countryside. Most importantly, though, we became better Warfighters. Now, we’re bringing newly-learned expertise back to our ship. I am confident that our team can effectively employ the NSM weapon system and develop tactics that will carry us through certification and deployment, as well as benefit the future of NSM on U.S. Navy ships.