The Surface Warriors of the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) hosted the chief of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police (SLMPD) during a Black History month ceremony celebrating the history of black migrations, at the command headquarters on Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, Feb 27.

Col. John W. Hayden, Jr., the 35th Chief of the SLMPD, was the keynote speaker for the event. He spoke about growing up as child of the 1960's and what it means to be a black man and a black police officer in today's environment.

In the 1950's, his parents, John and Betty, migrated to St. Louis from Louisville, Kentucky, after his father got out of the Marine Corps. Hayden watched his parents spend 35 years in their respective careers and they raised him to be whatever he wanted to be.

"I grew up in an era when black parents would regularly tell their sons and daughters that you can become anything in this world that you put your mind to; except President of the United States," Hayden said.

"I want you to know I called my parents when President Obama was elected and they were crying tears of joy," he added.

He spoke about being raised with the attitude of doing the "best you can do in whatever you do." This is something he held onto as he rose through the ranks of the police force.

When the position of SLMPD chief came available, he hesitated at the chance to apply for the position, but he did and after a lengthy process was selected based on his merits.

"Although I had been promoted four times previously in my career, this was the first and only time I scored number one," Hayden said.

When speaking about being a black police officer in a time when police officers are being protested, Hayden quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech and how Dr. King would have handled it.

"As I have worked as the scene commander at various skirmishes in the aftermath of the Ferguson protests and on the front line of the Stockley protests, I have often asked myself what would Dr. King think of all of this," he said.

"I believe Dr. King would approve of and encourage peaceful, non-violent protests against police brutality," he added.

As Hayden finished his speech, he shared what he would do if Dr. King was to interview him for his job as SLMPD chief. He promised to learn from the past, build the community, have accountability and to spread the word of God.
After Hayden's remarks, Maj. Gen. Stephen E. Farmen, the commanding general of SDDC, shared his thoughts about what black history month means to him.

"The soul of our country, like our character, is about the journey, not the destination," he said. "We must all do our part to move the journey forward."