African American History Month: DCC Spencer Wilson

Chief Petty Officer Spencer Wilson pauses for a photo by Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley in Kodiak, Alaska, Feb. 13, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Diana Honings.

Chief Petty Officer Spencer Wilson pauses for a photo by Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley in Kodiak, Alaska, Feb. 13, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Diana Honings.

African American History Month is an annual celebration in February to recognize the achievements and central role by African Americans in U.S. history.

In honor of African American History month, five members of Coast Guard 17th District will be featured throughout the month.

Chief Petty Officer Spencer Wilson, damage controlman, Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley

Spencer is currently stationed aboard Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley in Kodiak, Alaska, with his wife and three children.

Spencer joined the Coast Guard in 1994 while employed at Immigration and Naturalization Service in Newark, N.J. His prior units include Coast Guard Cutter Sorrel in Governor’s Island, N.Y., Coast Guard Air Station Brooklyn, Caretaker Detachment Governor’s Island, Coast Guard Cutter Legare in Portsmouth, Va., Coast Guard Aids to Navigation N.Y., and Coast Guard Air Station Miami.

Why did you choose to serve in the Coast Guard? 

Honestly, the recruiter played a huge role in me joining the Coast Guard. Growing up in the inner city, I had never heard of the Coast Guard and had no idea what the organization was about. I was immediately intrigued with the many missions and professional growth the Coast Guard had available.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned during your career?

The most important thing I learned during my career is that to be an effective leader, you must keep evolving and growing as a person. I have had the pleasure of working for and with some supervisors that I feel possess great leadership qualities. It is not enough to just understand and excel in your craft, but you shall also make a real effort to understand and know the people you are intending to lead. I believe the Coast Guard has been doing a good job at recognizing the changes in the world and understanding that the organization must evolve and deal with these social issues as well.

How has being a part of a sea-going service impacted your life?

Serving in the Coast Guard has afforded me the opportunity to witness different cultures through my travels to the Caribbean and parts of Europe that I am sure I would not have known.

African American History Month is a time to celebrate the positive influences and traditions that African Americans have enriched our nation with. What does it mean to you to celebrate this month in the Coast Guard?

Diversity is a big part of what makes the Coast Guard great to me. This organization has a long history of accomplishments and it feels good to know that the African American culture is a part of it.

African American History Month has become especially memorable for me since I have been stationed on CGC Alex Haley. I grew up a fan of Mr. Haley* and I feel great pride to be on the cutter named after him.

* As an African American serving in the Coast Guard in 1939, Alex Haley was known for writing 40 or more letters a week, eventually becoming a ghost-writer for his shipmates with his eloquent literary compositions. Haley began writing in earnest for magazines and newspapers before the Coast Guard officially recognized his talents and created the public affairs rating, promoting Haley to Journalist, First Class in 1949.

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