Archive for the 'native american' Category

Nov 1

Lieutenant Kenneth L. Vargas, USN, a Seabee Combat Warfare officer and a proud member of the Choctaw Nation

Monday, November 1, 2010 12:01 AM

November marks the start of National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month and it is an especially good time to introduce Lieutenant Kenneth L. Vargas, USN, a Seabee Combat Warfare officer and a proud member of the Choctaw Nation.

He makes presentations about the contributions of Native Americans in the military and to American society because “Educating my Navy family on my culture is a great privilege for my family and me. There are many misconceptions in the general population about Native American culture, ranging from the idea that Native Americans do not pay taxes to the notion that we speak ‘Indian.’ Sharing our culture promotes acceptance and understanding of fallacies that might otherwise go unchanged.” He notes that people would be surprised to learn that “we have all ethnic groups beat in the Armed Forces participation combined!! Native Americans have the highest record of service per capita when compared with other ethnic groups.”

His programs support the Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead’s priority on celebrating and increasing diversity in the Navy; Vargas’ naval service is an example of why having diverse talents among naval personnel is critical to the Navy’s ability to complete its missions.

LT Vargas, a Bridgeport, Texas native, graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington and earned his Master of Science degree from the University of Texas at Austin. He began his career as a dental technician with the fleet marines at Camp Pendleton. As a Seabee, both officer and enlisted, he served with marines providing valuable engineering support to the war effort. He noted, “There is a special pride in serving side by side with my Marine Corps brothers; it is good ‘medicine’ for a warrior.” His most memorable tour is the one year he spent embedded with the New Iraqi Army. He remarked, “The Iraqi people have a proud tribal tradition and embraced me wholeheartedly as a brother quickly.” He describes the Navy’s Core Values as, “the greatest formula for success in life; Honor, Courage, and Commitment in every thing you do. Everything else will fall in place if you hold these three close to your heart.”

For Vargas, naval service means, “Being part of a military service that has deep time honored traditions goes hand in hand with my tribal traditions. I am a small, but integral cog in a very complex system that is our Navy, the proudest and strongest that has ever sailed the seven seas and the stars above!”

 
Oct 25

CDR. Ernest Evans, Skipper of USS Johnston (DD-557)

Monday, October 25, 2010 12:01 AM

At first light on 25 October 1944, huge geysers of water shot up near the destroyer Johnston. That ship and half a dozen other American destroyers were escorting half a dozen jeep carriers off Samar. A shaky voice on Johnston’s talk between ships radio reported “a major portion” of the Japanese fleet fifteen miles astern. Commander Ernest Evans, the skipper, burst out of his sea cabin, barking out orders: All hands general quarters! Light off all boilers for maximum speed! Make smoke!

Ernest Evans had come up the hard way, harder than most. His white paternal grandfather had married a Creek Indian woman just to gain control of her land allotment. He soon divorced her and disowned their child. That child grew up to be his father; his mother was a full blooded Cherokee. Born “into a world of low prospects and ill will,” Ernest beat what seemed impossible odds. Amid intense prejudice against Native Americans he graduated from a nearly all-white high school, joined the National Guard, transferred to the Navy enlisted service, won an appointment to the Naval Academy without political pull, and graduated with the class of 1931.

As the light grew, the pagoda-like superstructures of four Japanese battleships, eight cruisers, and eleven destroyers appeared over the horizon. Johnston’s task unit, dubbed Taffy Three, were all that stood between the Japanese force and MacArthur’s troops on shore while the rest of Halsey’s Third Fleet chased a decoy force of Japanese aircraft carriers.

Without waiting for orders, Evans gave the command to commence a torpedo run against the enemy. Johnston steered toward her target, an enemy cruiser, veering and fishtailing toward enemy shell splashes in the belief that “lightning doesn’t strike twice.” Evans closed to less than 10,000 yards before loosing a spread of torpedoes. Several of them blew the bow off the Japanese cruiser.

For more than three hours Johnston engaged the enemy. Evans’ aggressiveness, along with that of other American destroyermen and aviators from Taffy Three, led the Japanese to believe they were facing a much larger force and caused them to turn away.

The price was steep. Evans and many of his shipmates were killed as Japanese fire eventually overwhelmed Johnston, sending her to the bottom. Although severely wounded early in the battle, Evans pressed the attack until he vanished when his ship went down. For his “valiant fighting spirit,” he received the Medal of Honor.

 
Oct 12

Breaking the Mold: The Ben Cloud Story

Tuesday, October 12, 2010 12:01 AM

Flying over Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War in an RF-8 Crusader, Ben Cloud never pondered his status as an officer of African American and Native American descent. His main concern was getting good photos of the Ho Chi Minh trail, and surviving the antiaircraft fire he received on every mission.

Cloud came from a middle class family from San Diego, Calif., and entered the Naval Aviation Cadet program at the onset of the Korean War. He later was selected to fly one of the hottest planes of the period, the F9F Panther.

By 1971 his career was on a tear. After commanding a squadron and graduating near the top of his Naval War College class, he was deep selected to become the Executive Officer of the carrier Kitty Hawk.

On the night of 12 October 1972, the ship was steaming off the coast of North Vietnam, launching air strikes designed to put pressure on the North Vietnamese to end the war. Several black Sailors, disenchanted with their jobs and with the outcomes of several recent captain’s mast cases, assaulted white Sailors. These attackers were soon joined by peers, and Kitty Hawk had a full-blown riot on its hands.

Rather than send in Marines with firearms, the ship’s captain allowed Cdr. Cloud to try and negotiate. In the mold of a reconnaissance pilot, Cloud went to the fantail “alone, unarmed, and unafraid,” and confronted a hostile group of Sailors. Through sheer force of personality he convinced them to surrender the makeshift weapons they were carrying and end the riot. While 60 men had been injured in the affair, it could have been much worse. Kitty Hawk launched strikes just hours later despite having just suffered one of the worst riots in naval history.

 
 
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