Michael Hobson, Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) Black Employment Program manager, presents a plaque to his sister - Col. Traci Crawford, commander of Moncrief Army Community Hospital, Fort Jackson, S.C. - in grateful appreciation of her willingness to serve as guest speaker at the NSWCDD sponsored 2015 Black History Month Observance aboard Naval Support Facility Dahlgren Feb. 26. (U.S. Navy photo by Patrick Dunn/Released)
DAHLGREN, Va.—An Army colonel reflected on her reaction to an unusual invitation - would she be the Navy's guest speaker at a Black History Month celebration sponsored by the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD)?
"I've done nothing extraordinary," Col. Traci Crawford declared to the Navy military and civilian audience attending the event at Naval Support Facility Dahlgren Feb. 26.
Crawford - Commander of Moncrief Army Community Hospital, Fort Jackson, S.C. - said she thought about "those amazing and inspirational American figures that have gone before us."
Then she asked, "why me?"
Her brother - NSWCDD scientist Michael Hobson who doubles as the command's Black Employment Program Manager - explained: "It's because of who you are and what you have accomplished!"
Without further ado, Crawford accepted the guest speaker invitation, braving the weather and road conditions, driving from South Carolina to the Dahlgren base theater for the event.
The 2015 theme, selected by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History is "A Century of Black Life, History, and Culture." This theme highlights the fact that over the past century, African American life, history, and culture have become major forces in the United States and the world.
"As I reflect on my life and career, I can humbly say that I've just simply done my best," said Crawford as she presented her message: "Honoring the Legacy of Black History by Simply Doing Your Best."
The colonel's words of wisdom are evident in her own life.
In addition to serving in various clinical, staff, and leadership positions, she holds a Master's degree in Military Strategic Studies and a Master's of Science degree in Trauma/Critical Care. The colonel is also a graduate of the U.S. Army War College, the Resident Army Command and General Staff College, and the Combined Armed Services Staff School.
"Let's reflect on our rich African-American history and let me share with you my experiences, challenges, and mentors who have molded me into the person I am today," said Crawford, explaining that her mother - a business teacher in New York and Virginia who completed her master's and doctoral degrees while working and raising a family - was her role model.
"She taught me what excellence looks like, and taught me that in spite of circumstances around you, to simply do your best and always strive for better," said Crawford as she reflected on tours of duty from her first assignment as a medical surgical staff nurse and emergency room staff nurse at Baynes Jones Army Community Hospital, Fort Polk, La., to more recent tours at the strategic level in Army leadership positions at the Pentagon and Fort Knox, Ky.
"The biggest lesson I learned from Fort Polk is to grow where you're planted and just do the best that you can," said Crawford. "My focus for the remainder of my career was, and is, to do my best regardless of circumstances. I've had many mentors who have encouraged me to do just that."
Crawford turned the attention of her audience to challenges faced by African Americans - past and present - who responded to their challenges with determination, resulting in inspirational accomplishments.
"Black history month is important because of what it represents - a rich and diverse culture that has arisen because of the contributions of individuals," said Crawford. "Each individual's success is a bridge that others can cross to contribute to the betterment of all."
Crawford recalled the inspirational American figures that came to her mind when she was invited to speak to her Navy audience.
"Carter G. Woodson - who pioneered the celebration of Negro History Week - was a bridge," said Crawford. "President Abraham Lincoln, remembered by scholars and the public as one of three greatest U.S. presidents, was a bridge. Frederick Douglas, an African American social reformer, orator, writer, statesman, was a bridge. He served as a living example, countering slave holders' arguments that slaves lacked the intellectual capacity to function as independent citizens."
"We must all continue to educate and be a bridge to inspire people in the future," said Crawford, recalling the lives of African-American abolitionist, and women's rights activist Sojourner Truth and African-American abolitionist, humanitarian, and union spy Harriet Tubman - referring to them as a "bridge".
She recounted the life of Booker T. Washington - an African-American educator, author, orator, advisor to presidents of the United States - "and a bridge who lifted the veil of ignorance from his people and pointed the way to progress through education and industry."
"And finally," said Crawford, "Lt. Cmdr. Wesley Brown - the first African American to graduate from the U.S. naval academy - was a bridge".
Moreover, Crawford quoted Michelle Obama's comments about U.S. President Barack Obama. "He believes that when you've worked hard and done well and walked through the door of opportunity, you don't slam it shut behind you. You reach back and give folks the same chances that helped you succeed."
"The military leads the way in challenging societal norms and breaking glass ceilings, opening doors of opportunities for all who demonstrate hard work, good ethics, and simply doing their best," said Crawford.
NSWCDD Commander Capt. Brian Durant reviewed the accomplishments of African-Americans - including their impact in government, international affairs, politics, civil rights, medicine, literature, space exploration, sports, music, entertainment and the military since 1915. Most notable is Barack Obama who became the 44th President of the United States - the first African-American to hold that office.
Throughout Black History Month, the Navy recognizes the honorable service that African-American Sailors have provided throughout naval history ever since the Revolutionary War.
"One of the most compelling success stories is that of Vice Adm. Michelle Howard," said Durant. "Admiral Howard is recognized for many first accomplishments, including the recognition as the first female United States Naval Academy graduate to be promoted to the rank of admiral, the first black female to command a combatant ship, and the first black female promoted to two-star and three-star admiral - and then four stars. Today she serves as Vice Chief of Naval Operations, second in command in the Navy."
African-Americans continue to serve with distinction, comprising more than 17 percent of Navy active duty total force end-strength.
"Our success as a warfare center depends upon the talents and hard work of a diverse workforce - comprised of men and women of all ethnic backgrounds," said Durant. "They share a desire to meet the challenges of our mission and work side-by-side to develop innovative solutions for the warfighter. Innovation and progress are best served with diverse ideas set towards a common goal. I'd like to thank all of you, particularly due to the weather and particularly to African-American members of our workforce, for your continued dedication and hard work."