Rear Adm. Jesse Wilson, commander, Naval Surface Force Atlantic, listens to Bill Hertel, a mechanical engineer with the Solid Waste, Pollution Prevention and Hazardous Material Management Branch, on Feb. 13, 2018, as he describes the Mobile Cleaning, Recovery and Recycling System that is used onboard ships for flight deck cleaning. During Wilson's visit to Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division in West Bethesda, Md., he was a guest speaker for the Black History Month celebration. (Photo by Jake Cirksena)
Duane Williams (left), SES, director of operations with the Department of Agriculture; Rear Adm. Jesse Wilson, commander, Naval Surface Force Atlantic; and Capt. Mark Vandroff, commanding officer, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, give honors as the National Anthem is played at the beginning of Carderock's Black History Month celebration Feb. 13, 2018, in West Bethesda, Md. (Photo by Jake Cirksena)
WEST BETHESDA, Md. —
Service is about more than an individual, the two guest speakers for the Black History Month observance told their audience at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, in West Bethesda, Maryland, Feb. 13.
Rear Adm. Jesse A. Wilson Jr. and Duane Williams spoke about what it means for them to serve. Wilson is commander, Naval Surface Force Atlantic and Williams is the director of operations with the Department of Agriculture.
"I'm standing here today wearing the cloth of our nation, and you could say I'm standing on the shoulders of giants," Wilson said.
None of those giants are more important to Wilson than his father, a retired Navy master chief petty officer. During the younger Wilson's first year at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, his father, who served for 27 years, joked it was time to retire.
"'It's time for me to retire because I don't want to have to salute you,'" Wilson recalled. "Of course, he said that a little tongue in cheek, but we all know there's a little truth to every joke, right?"
One of the important things Wilson's father taught him was "pride, confidence and value," Wilson said.
Wilson, a native of California, Maryland, saw his father's belief he was as good as anyone at his job.
"I believe it's that positive attitude that helped my service even to this very day," he said.
Whether someone wears a military uniform, a business suit or a hoodie, service is about leadership competence, character, caring, inclusion and selflessness, Wilson said.
"Those who serve have a commitment to their nation and a commitment to the community," Wilson said. "In a sense, they have a commitment to the team."
The Navy has developed leaders like that despite overwhelming odds and in challenging situations. Wilson spoke about leaders like the service's first African American officers, the "Golden 13," Cook 3rd Class Dorie Miller and Master Chief Boatswain's Mate Carl Brashear.
The Golden 13 were commissioned as Navy ensigns in February 1944, during the height of World War II. For his actions during the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Miller became the first African American to receive the Navy Cross. Brashear was the Navy's first African-American diver, and later was named the master diver even after losing his left leg in an accident. Wilson briefly attended high school with one of Brashear's sons.
"We must never forget the sacrifice and their faithful service and their example," Wilson said. "And I'm confident the leaders who will build our cohesive team for the future will carry the day and allow us to be victorious in this great power competition."
Williams, a Senior Executive Service member, spoke about everyone's unique qualifications to serve.
When Williams learned about the scientists, engineers and employees at Carderock, he said he recognized he was going to a place of greatness.
"The operative word here is 'uniquely qualified' for your respective positions," Williams said. "But you also have unique qualifications that have yet to be discovered."
Williams said everyone who attended the observation was qualified to serve their community by volunteering, and doing so would benefit them and others.
"As so greatly articulated by Dr. Martin Luther King, 'everyone can be great, because everyone can serve,'" Williams said. King went on to say someone doesn't need a college degree to serve; they only need a heart full of grace.
"I believe we have some of those people here today," Williams said.
Everyone has a different interpretation and definition of what service can be, he said.
Williams, a career civil servant who went to the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University on a basketball scholarship, said his service is to make an impact on people around him at work and home.
About 25 years ago, Williams was attending another Black History Month observance. The speaker talked about King's commitment to serve. From that Williams began volunteering with youth sports. He coached basketball and umpired tee-ball games.
"I was literally having a ball and I got involved," Williams said.
Collectively, a lot of progress has been made with occasional struggles, Williams said. Use the examples of the great leaders like King on how to continue to serve, he said.
Williams encouraged people to volunteer at a senior living facility, a homeless shelter or food pantry, because they all need uniquely qualified individuals to help.