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Staff Thoughts: Black History Month

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We have started a chat group  dedicated to Black History Month in our office. We would like to share this post by our teammate, Ivan Miranda, who found this article on the Navy.mil website. During February, we can all learn together about the historical contributions made by African Americans.

Master Chief Brashear:

Brashear enlisted in the U.S. Navy on February 25, 1948, shortly after the Navy had been desegregated by U.S. President Harry S. Truman. He graduated from the U.S. Navy Diving & Salvage School in 1954, becoming the first African-American to attend and graduate from the Diving & Salvage School and the first African-American U.S. Navy Diver.

 

Brashear first worked as a diver retrieving approximately 16,000 rounds of ammunition that fell off a barge which had broken in half and sunk to the bottom. On his first tour of shore duty in Quonset Point, Rhode Island, his duties included the salvaging of airplanes (including one Blue Angel) and recovering multiple dead bodies.

 

In January 1966, in an accident now known as the Palomares incident, a B28 nuclear bomb was lost off the coast of PalomaresSpain, after two United States Air Force aircraft of the Strategic Air Command (SAC), a B-52G Stratofortress bomber and a KC-135A Stratotanker aerial refueling aircraft, collided during aerial refueling. Brashear was serving aboard USS Hoist (ARS-40) when it was dispatched to find and recover the missing bomb for the Air Force. The warhead was found after two and a half months of searching.[3] For his service in helping to retrieve the bomb, Brashear was later awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal – the highest Navy award for non-combat heroism.

During the bomb recovery operations on March 23, 1966, a line used for towing broke loose, causing a pipe to strike Brashear’s left leg below the knee, nearly shearing it off. He was evacuated to Torrejon Air Base in Spain, then to the USAF Hospital at Wiesbaden Air BaseGermany; and finally to the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia. Beset with persistent infection and necrosis, his lower left leg was eventually amputated.

 

Brashear remained at the Naval Regional Medical Center in Portsmouth from May 1966 until March 1967 recovering and rehabilitating from the amputation. From March 1967 to March 1968, Brashear was assigned to the Harbor Clearance Unit Two, Diving School, preparing for return to full active duty and diving. In April 1968, after a long struggle, Brashear was the first amputee diver to be recertified as a U.S. Navy diver. In 1970, he became the first African-American U.S. Navy master diver, and served nine more years beyond that, achieving the rating of master chief boatswain’s mate in 1971. Brashear was motivated by his beliefs that “It’s not a sin to get knocked down; it’s a sin to stay down”.

 

Brashear retired from the U.S. Navy on April 1, 1979, as a master chief petty officer (E-9) and master diver.
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