Lieutenant Kenneth L. Vargas, USN, a Seabee Combat Warfare officer and a proud member of the Choctaw Nation
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!”
On 13 October 1775, the Continental Congress voted to purchase, arm, and fit out two warships for the purpose of capturing enemy transports “laden with warlike stores and other supplies.” It was a momentous decision by the lawmakers, one that prompted Massachusetts delegate and naval advocate John Adams to crow, “We begin to feel a little of a Seafaring Inclination here.”
While the 13th of October is recognized today as the Navy’s official birthday, it was far from certain in 1775 whether the two vessels Congress authorized that day would remain anything other than a token naval force. Some members of Congress continued to doubt the wisdom of establishing a Continental fleet. Others, who hailed from southern colonies, suspected that a navy, if established, would serve New England interests rather than those of the colonies as a whole.
On 30 October 1775, the Continental Congress passed several resolutions that moved the Revolutionary government closer to a adopting a full-scale naval program. One of these resolves directed the purchase of an additional two warships to be employed with those authorized on the 13th. A second called for the appointment of a seven-man committee to oversee the management of the four-ship fleet once purchased. According to historian Gardner Allen, the vote of 30 October “fully committed” Congress “to the policy of maintaining a naval armament.” By year’s end Congressional representatives had passed additional measures relating to manning, pay, discipline, and ship construction that finalized the establishment of the nation’s new sea service. On 17 February 1776, the Continental Navy under Ezek Hopkins sailed on its first wartime mission.
As Delivered by the Director of Naval History Rear Admiral Jay DeLoach USN-Ret., Society of Sponsors of the U.S. Navy Fall Luncheon, Alexandria, VA, Thursday, October 28, 2010
Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen and members of the Society of Sponsors of the United States Navy. A special thank you to Mrs. Linda Winter for this invitation to speak with you today. Her ship, USS San Diego, has a particular tie to this third generation Navy man in that it is the Navy town where I was born. I would like to acknowledge many people here today but this is such a star-studded group that I would spend half my allotted time recognizing everyone. One couple I would like to recognize to illustrate further the ‘six degrees of separation’ we share in this close-knit Navy family is Vice Admiral Jeff Fowler and his lovely wife Katie who is the sponsor of North Dakota. Jeff is an Academy classmate and fellow submariner. Katie and I went to the same high school where she was a classmate and good friend of my younger sister. Indeed, it is a small world and I thank you all for being here today.
Let me begin by saying a few words about the command responsible for the stewardship of the Navy’s history and heritage…the Naval History & Heritage Command. If I could direct your attention to the navy blue brochure, please open it to the insert of the pictorial map of the United States. This picture depicts the entire Naval History & Heritage Command which is comprised of 320 personnel in 35 facilities in 15 different geographic locations. We have 20 historians and researchers capturing the Navy’s history since 1775, an operational archive holding 128 million pages of records and documents, the Navy’s oldest library started in 1800 at the request of President John Adams who said go out and collect books from other maritime nations so that we can learn from them as a young Navy. Our underwater archaeology branch is responsible for 3000 military shipwrecks and 14,000 aircraft underneath the waters around the world per the Sunken Military Craft Act. We have 30 thousand pieces of Navy artwork, and over a million artifacts in three warehouses or have been loaned out to commands and other museums in 54 states and territories as well as over two dozen countries. We operate 11 museums and one heritage center as well as the Navy’s first nuclear powered submarine, now the historic ship Nautilus, and the Nation’s oldest commissioned warship, USS Constitution. Lastly and on the back of the brochure, to make history ‘come alive’ for our Sailors and the millions of American citizens, we use a robust website and variety of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to tell the Navy’s rich heritage. As a submariner and nuclear engineering major, not a historian, I will tell you this is really fun job!
As most of you know, the Navy celebrated its 235th birthday about two weeks ago. The Navy traces its lineage to 13 October 1775, when an act of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia authorized the procurement of the first two ships of a new navy for the United Colonies, as they were then known. And on November 2nd, Congress authorized the money to pay for those warships and gave the Naval Committee authority to appoint officers and enlist sailors.
196 years ago today, the first steam-powered U.S. Navy warship, Fulton, was launched in New York City - culminating a seven year adventure by inventor Robert Fulton.
Fulton’s relationship with the United States Navy began in 1807, when few could have predicted his major importance in the Navy’s history. In fact, that relationship started out badly, principally because of the rhetoric Fulton used to promote his naval inventions.
Fulton shared in the republican enthusiasm of the revolutionary age. Enthusiasts for the new republics of the United States and France believed that republican government would solve society’s great evils, including the evil of war. These early republicans believed that wars resulted from the greed and ambition of monarchs and aristocrats. Eliminating kings and nobles and putting government in the hands of the people would eliminate the principal causes of war. The common man would not vote for war merely to aggrandize the wealthy who were interested in conquest and dominion.
From NavyTV, a 1935 recruiting film - showing fleet maneuvers at sea. Look for the USS California (BB-44), USS Cushing (DD-376), USS Phelps (DD-360) and USS Wasmuth (DD-338).
Torpedo planes show their capabilities too. The big guns show off – interesting “special effect” being a shell in a large gun! Turn up the sound, the Band is playing! The lovely homecomings at the end really do show that somethings never change.
Enjoy the history, see the Fleet at its finest!