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NAACP Bestows Awards on DoD, Coast Guard Personnel

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 25, 2000 – The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People presented top service awards to eight uniformed members and two civilians recently at its 25th annual Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Awards dinner in Baltimore.

The NAACP is one of the strongest outside forces demanding fair treatment of the men and women in the armed forces, guest speaker Alphonso Maldon told the dinner audience.

"When a soldier, sailor, Marine or airman was denied enlistment based on race, or falsely accused of crimes he didn't commit, or barred from serving in the air and on the battlefield when he was able and eager to do so, the NAACP was there," said Maldon, assistant secretary of defense for force management policy.

Maldon said the NAACP was sometimes there with money or a lawyer, and "sometimes just with the support and encouragement to say, 'You're right. You can do it. We'll make sure you get the chance.'"

He said the honorees personify the essence of the Roy Wilkins Renown Service Award each received. Their services selected them as the most worthy of the award, given annually since 1980 to military personnel who made distinguishing contributions to military equal opportunity policies and programs, he noted. The award honors NAACP leader Roy Wilkins, who established the association's Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Department in 1969.

Wilkins Award winners were:  

  • Army Maj. Gen. Robert L. Nabors was honored for his "personal commitment to civil rights and equal opportunity," particularly during his tenure as commander of the Army Communications- Electronics Command, Fort Monmouth, N.J.

    The citation read that Nabors' vision, as commanding general is humanity and promoting diversity and fairness worldwide. When he was commander of the 5th Signal Command, "he championed humanitarianism and spearheaded efforts to create professional opportunities for all employees regardless of race, gender or national origin," the citation states.

    Among other efforts, Nabors directed the Communications- Electronics Command to develop innovative management practices that facilitated diversity within the command and in minority advancement and attainment of several key promotion goals, according to the citation.  

  • Navy Dr. (Cmdr.) Linda A. Murakata was recognized for being "committed, involved and dedicated to the civil rights movement in the federal sector." She has made personal sacrifices resulting in significant contributions to civil and human rights, her citation states.

    "Dr. Murakata founded the Afrikasian Scholars Foundation Inc. in 1991 after entering active duty as a Navy lieutenant in May 1990. The foundation has awarded 20 scholarships to minority, teen, single mothers and fathers who graduated from high school and continued their education in college, technical, or trade school. She awarded 15 scholarships from her personal paycheck."

    Murakata is also a mentor and role model who frequently speaks at local high schools, colleges and special education groups. "Her frank discussions of her own journey from single welfare parent to a medical doctor and naval officer has inspired thousands," according to the citation.

    The full story about Murakata's journey, "From Welfare Mom to Navy Medical 'Detective'" can be found at: http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Apr2000/n04042000_20004043.html.  

  • His award citation calls Marine Corps Maj. Don M. Thanars "a staple for human rights." As provost marshal at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., Thanars "promotes civil and human rights, equal opportunity and public service on a daily basis," the citation reads. He also serves as the chairman for the Tri-Command Martin Luther King Jr. and Black History Month Committee.

    The citation reads in part that Thanars ensures the committee provides a variety of diverse, educational and entertaining programs which teach minority and nonminority members each other's culture.

    "His efforts made it possible for students to receive scholarships for college," the citation reads. "He also coordinates voter registration drives and other forums to increase awareness and to encourage local residents to be more involved in the community."  

  • Air Force Maj. Sherry L. Stearns-Boles was cited for participating in "programs and activities that have fostered a better understanding among minority and nonminority members of the military and civilian population."

    As a charter member and treasurer for the local Air Force Cadet and Officer Mentoring Action Program chapter, Stearns-Boles "promoted the professional and leadership development of future Air Force officers by assisting candidates with their transition into the Air Force Officer Corps."

    As the executive adviser for the 1999 Peterson Air Force Base (Colo.) Black Heritage Committee, she helped educate both the base and surrounding local community on the contributions of African Americans throughout American history.

    Stearns-Boles was also honored for outstanding contributions as a member of the Colorado Springs Youth Leadership Conference Committee, president of the Wyoming Buffalo Soldiers Association, and for spearheading the 1998 Martin Luther King Memorial Service at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo.

    The citation also states that, "as a charter member for first- ever Wyoming Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, she promoted community service and improved educational opportunities for both women and minorities."  

  • Army Maj. Richard Donnell Kingsberry of the National Guard Bureau was honored for his service as a mentor for at-risk youth and his participation in the after-school enrichment program at Johnson C. Smith University, Charlotte, N.C.

    "To fight against juvenile delinquency," Kingsberry served as the chairperson of the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council, composed of public officials and volunteers appointed by the Mecklenburg County (N.C.) Commissioners, his citation states.

    An avid member of the Federal Executive Association, Kingsberry is also the founder and immediate past president of the 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association of "The Buffalo Soldiers" Greater North Carolina Chapter.  

  • Second Lt. Pamela Denise Townsend was recognized for her accomplishments since enlisting as an airman in the Connecticut Air National Guard on June 12, 1991. She earned a dual bachelor of science in psychology and sociology in 1997 from Charter Oak State College. Townsend earned a master's degree in education in 1998 and another in management in 1999 from Cambridge College.

    In the civilian community, Townsend serves as the advisory chairperson of the Southwest Boys and Girls Club in Hartford, Conn., where she has overseen the Smart Girl and Keystone Programs.

    She also serves on the Diversity in Our Schools Committee in Windsor, Conn. The committee imparts values to students regarding their race, color, class or physical appearance. Townsend was also an active leader and participant on the Air National Guard People Potential 2000 Diversity Committee and Connecticut National Guard Black History Month Celebration Committee.

    In 1998, Townsend established the "In Pursuit of a Dream Campaign" exposing urban youth to career opportunities in the Connecticut Air National Guard.  

  • Shirley L. Fields received her Wilkins Award for "unparalleled leadership in human and civil rights, equal opportunity and human resource development" at the Defense Information Systems Agency, Arlington, Va. The citation cites her unwavering community support and her establishment of annual college scholarship funds through Saint Timothy's Episcopal and Cedar Hill Baptist Churches that helps disadvantaged minority students.

    She also established a technology support services contract for minority institutions valued at $24 million -- the first of its kind in the history of the Department of Defense.

    Fields is chairperson of Government Information Technology Council's Scholarship Committee, and serves as an advisory on the board of the Washington chapter of the Armed Forced Communications and Electronic Association, administering scholarships to promote technical studies.

    Members of the Coast Guard accounted for two Wilkins Awards and a Meritorious Service Award, the NAACP's highest to a military policy maker.  

  • Retired Coast Guard Vice Adm. James C. Card, former vice commandant, received a Wilkins Award for his commitment to excellence, diversity and civil rights, the citation states. He was credited for leadership of the Coast Guard "Managing Diversity as a Process" study, "the seminal 'road map' used by the Coast Guard to improve its organizational environment."

    "The study report established guidelines for ensuring that all people, regardless of race, color, gender, physical ability, or ethnicity, have the opportunity to achieve their full potential," the citation reads.

    Card championed the findings of the study and mainstreams it throughout the service. to help provide support for equal opportunity, civil rights and diversity. He also focuses on building greater diversity in the highest decision levels of the Coast Guard, according to the citation.  

  • Houston "Jerry" Jones of the Headquarters Support Command Staff in Washington is "committed and dedicated to helping others and was instrumental in making the Coast Guard the employer of choice for women, minorities and persons with disabilities," his citations reads.

    "Known for his commitment to diversity," it continues, "Jones helps to create an environment where all of the people who work for the Coast Guard will have the opportunity to reach his or her maximum potential."

    Jones is credited with helping the Coast Guard participate in the national "Take Your Daughters-to-Work Day," to include a "Take Your Sons-to-Work Day" program. His community activities include the NAACP, National Capital Area Crisis Intervention team and Interagency Disability Educational Awareness Showcase. He also volunteers in local civic associations and serves meals to the homeless.

In a special tribute, Adm. James M. Loy, Coast Guard commandant, received the NAACP Meritorious Service Award from Julian Bond, president of the organization's national board of directors. The NAACP cited Loy for "championing equal opportunity, affirmative action, civil rights and public service in the Coast Guard."

"As commandant, one of his initial acts was to appoint the first African American to the position of master chief petty officer (Vincent W. Patton III) of the Coast Guard," the citation read.

Loy was also honored for establishing two outreach programs that are making strong contributions to minority officer recruiting. The College Student Pre-commissioning Initiative is a scholarship program concentrated primarily on the campuses of historically black colleges and universities. More than 205 African American college graduates entered the Coast Guard as commissioned officers through the program.

The Coast Guard Recruiting Initiative for the 21st Century has recruited 59 students as candidates for the Coast Guard Academy. Loy was also honored for embracing the secretary of transportation's Garrett A. Morgan Technology and Transportation Futures Program, named after the son of a slave who invented the traffic light, the citation states.

"The Coast Guard's program has reached over one million students who have been exposed to math, science and technology -- skills required for military and transportation careers," according to the citation.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageCoast Guard Vice Adm. James C. Card   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageShirley L. Fields   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageHouston "Jerry" Jones  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Maj. Richard D. Kingsberry   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageCoast Guard Adm. James M. Loy   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageNavy Dr. (Cmdr.) Linda A. Murakata poses with Kweisi Mfume, NAACP president and CEO. Photo by Mikki Land.   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageMarine Corps Maj. Don M. Thanars   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Maj. Gen. Robert L. Nabors   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAir National Guard Second Lt. Pamela D. Townsend   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAir Force Maj. Sherry L. Stearns-Boles   
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