FORT KNOX, Ky. - The 14th Human Resources Sustainment Center, 1st Theater Sustainment Command commemorated Black History Month with a program and potluck luncheon Feb. 17 here.
The program kicked off with Master Sgt. Antwan Stanley, petroleum distribution sergeant, Support Operations, 1st TSC, serving as a guest speaker who shared his early experiences of being Black in America and the Army in the late 90s.
“My grandmother was born into slavery,” Stanley said. “I remember her driving us to Georgia from our home in Florida to see the fields where she and her family picked cotton.”
“She told me that I have big shoes to fill and that I needed to do something different or end up being a statistic,” he said.
Stanley joined the Army when the slogan was “Be all you can be.” He knew that when he took that initial Oath of Enlistment that he was going to serve a full career, and during that time he has seen the evolution of diversity and inclusion within the Army.
“I remember my own NCO telling me that I was black as hell,” he said.
When he first started serving, Stanley didn’t know anything about the inspector general or any other program that the Army had to ensure Soldiers were treated with dignity and respect. Many of the current programs didn’t even exist. Over time, and especially within the last decade, the Army has improved its diversity, inclusion, and equity policies and continues to do so to ensure everyone who serves is treated with dignity and respect.
Stanley shared this advice with the Soldiers present, “You have to be great at what you do, and you cannot make excuses for what others have done.”
Pfc. Malcolm Cheaves, human resources specialist, 14th HRC, 1st TSC, continued the program by introducing a game. Soldiers received questions about Black Soldiers throughout history and the goal was to identify the Army leader.
One question was: “Who was the first Black Sergeant Major of the Army?” Someone quickly answered with, “Sgt. Maj. of the Army Gene McKinney!”
Another question was: “Who served as a captain in the Army in Vietnam from 1962 to 1963?” It was General and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
The final question asked: “Who first enlisted in the Army in 1983 as a field artilleryman?” Most of the Soldiers knew that was 1st TSC’s Commanding General Maj. Gen. Michel M. Russell Sr.
The goal of the program was to educate those in attendance about Black history and highlight the achievements and contributions Black Americans have made to the Army and our nation.
Following the program, the Soldiers shared food they prepared. The table included pork shoulder, chicken, macaroni and cheese, biscuits, beans and rice, and many desserts and drinks shared by the team.
Cheaves believes that having the observance for Black History Month is important, and a way to educate ourselves about what it means to be an inclusive force.
He said, “It’s important for me to represent my culture where I was born and raised in Washington, D.C.”
Sgt. Maj. Erika Bravo, plans and operations sergeant major, 14th HRSC, 1st TSC, reiterated Cheaves’ sentiments about the importance of the observance event.
“We had the Black History Month observance luncheon because it is important to understand the contributions of phenomenal individuals who changed history and continue to make contributions to our nation despite adversity,” she said.
“Furthermore, a special observance is a gateway to foster a culture of inclusion, cohesiveness, and readiness in our formation,” the sergeant major added.
Bravo hopes her Soldiers gained an increased awareness of what others have gone through so they can continue to sustain a positive equal opportunity environment at all levels.