Friends of Webster

Raised in the house, but field certified.

Music Speaks: T.I. “Remember Me”

Clifford “T.I.P.’ Harris

August 27th, 2009 Posted by | Music Speaks | no comments

A Forgotten Thank You: Captain Bobby Wilks

Bobby Wilks.jpg

I am aware that July 13, 2009 was over a month and a half ago. Nonetheless, he was one of the officers of whom I admired and as such, I felt compelled to honor him. He impacted the lives of Merle Smith, London Steverson, Manson Brown, Cleon Smith, Eddie Richards before they had a successful African-American, Academy-bred senior officer to follow.  He had to have had nerves of steel, an uncanny temperament and impenetrable character.  He was the first to make Captain and likely served as a jolt to the motivation and inspiration of the three latter classmates of 1978. Richards, my father and the Admiral were second-class cadets then; only then-2/C Cadet Manson Brown was sure to make it across the finish line. I know my father and I know that Captain Wilks inspired him to complete something that was extremely difficult for him. That being said, I owe Captain Wilks. All of these men, at one point, sat in the same room (Merle Smith was an adjunct professor at CGA) and discussed integrity and responsibility. His words were impressed upon me during the toughest of times of that life-altering Spring of 2006 in New London, Connecticut.

Cross-Posted from

Today I had the privilege of representing the Coast Guard at CAPT Bobby Wilks’ memorial service. I learned so much about this amazing man from the outpouring of friends and family. He was the consummate Coast Guard aviator, accumulating over 6,000 hours in 18 different types of aircraft including both helos and the HU16 Albatross. A wonderful story shows up when you search his name on the internet, about one of his rescues landing the venerable Goat in high seas off Miami. I think RADM Erroll Brown captured the essence of CAPT Wilks in his eulogy today, describing the first time they met. CAPT Wilks visited the Academy when RADM Brown was a cadet, took the minority officers aside and talked to them about integrity, the responsibility they were assuming as Coast Guard officers, and the very high expectations he had of them. As RADM Brown said most eloquently, there are many firsts, and many pioneers, but few legends; and the definition of a legend is one who leaves a positive life-changing impact on those who follow. CAPT Bobby Wilks is truly a Coast Guard legend.

VADM Crea, Ancient Albatross #21

To be OCS commissioned in the USCG in 1950′s and to represent the way he did, it makes me feel an overwhelming sense of disappointment.  His expression in the picture above is communicating a simple message, “You should have been better.”  




Pictured: Cleon Smith, Eddie Richards, Manson Brown and the c/o 1978 (4/c year) with LT London Steverson (Left Front)

August 27th, 2009 Posted by | 100 posts in 100 days | no comments

When is it in the best interest to Court-Martial a Cadet?

When do interests and political benefit outweigh the best means of achieving criminal justice?The U.S. Coast Guard Academy cited a “lack of evidence” as the reason to dispose of these UCMJ violations by Non-Judicial Punishment.

I remember driving through the Academy gates every morning for the trial and seeing the lamp post banners celebrating “25 years of Women at the Academy.” After about day three of the trial, I could no longer imagine a man winning every UCMJ charge in a case fueled by the testimony of accomplished, popular, “Alpha” female cadets and officers. The “25 Year Anniversary”celebration was everywhere and that initiative wasn’t exactly favorable for a non-bias military trial.

The article 32 officer recommended non-judicial punishment for US v. Cadet Webster Smith because Commander Steven Anderson observed that the evidence was either flimsy or all-together non-existent. When the charge sheet was first issued to me, I faced a life of imprisonment, 120+ years total. The Academy’s legal staff offered (two months later) a plea agreement for four years (3.3% of the punishment for the listed charges) at Miramar, California’s Naval Consolidated Brig. I rejected it, still believing that I was going to win (despite the many disadvantages that we fought through). After adjudication, 10% of the punishment was possible (13 years) and I received .42% of the maximum imprisonment dictated by the brevity and severity of those original charges.


Fitzgerald said the academy leadership did consider additional nonjudicial punishment or courts-martial, but felt it was “in the best interests of the Coast Guard and the academy to proceed with a Commandant of Cadet’s mast,” which is an administrative hearing instead of a judicial procedure.

The obvious question is, when does a Court-Martial make sense when criminal charges are being addressed? If logic and burden are more easily met by means of NJP, then why the hassle of an expensive, draining, humiliating and exhaustive court-martial that blackens the eye of the fabled institution? Was it preponderance of the alleged evidence? If the nine guilty cadets teamed up on another cadet, as to deflect the attention from themselves, would that cadet have ultimately been court-martialed? The Coast Guard Academy doesn’t criminally prosecute drug offenses. They don’t prosecute 99% of the alleged sexual crimes by Court-Martial, either. So what gives?

What I do know is this: The US v. Webster Smith Court-Martial was not a deterrent because Cadets knew that it was a fluke. They knew that it would never happen again. Ask the Rugby team in the Spring semester of 2006. Real sexual assaults still happen, weaker cases of it are alleged just as often as before. But comparatively, illegal drug cases happen much less frequently. In 2005, a teammate of mine was found to be distributing narcotics and steroids, he received much the same treatment as the recent nine cadets. No scare there. Three years later, an 0-6 faces trouble for his cocaine use. No scare there. Then nine cadets steal, fraternize, traffic, use and violate several other “conduct unbecoming” type laws. No scare, anonymity and a transfer to finish out their education at a school that is equal or better than the USCGA in prestige.

What made my case different? What pushed career brass to sacrifice their careers to prosecute that case? What made good men go mad? It wasn’t the prominence of sure-fire evidence; scoring a .42% on an exam would be pretty devastating for a student. Perhaps, it was in the best interest of the Academy. And that raises more questions than I care to ask.

Webster Smith: Look at the Facts

August 26th, 2009 Posted by | 100 posts in 100 days | no comments

“Stronger” and a Little Reminiscing

Stronger by Mary J. Blige – More Than A Game Version

With all that’s going on, I can’t help but to recollect. I miss my brothers, the gentlemen of CGA Football. I never had the chance to say “goodbye” to any of them. They never had the chance to grill me or seek answers to those purging questions. These sort of answers either push a teammate to defend their own or disown them. Without answers, they did the appropriate thing. They did what I would have done, given human nature. The questions persisted, I know, and the only answers were: my 2 A.M. disappearing act, my “Gag Order,” and the CGA public affairs “full-court” press conferences. Let us not forget a certain Captain’s partisan February 2006 wardroom announcement that I still hear about.

Brothers 12.jpg

There are teammates that, even under those circumstances, were as supportive as possible. Even more so, recently. But I do know that there are guys that are still skeptical. They are still disappointed that I left this mark on the team. They are still upset that when someone Googles “CGA Football,” our greatest football moment is pictured, with me cheesing for the camera. That is their absolute right, but it is my right to communicate to them that I miss those guys just as much as the guys that call, email, text, support us at our wedding and show up at our front door. To the skeptics and otherwise, I will make it all better…one day. I owe that to the team; whether they are concerned with my debts or not.

August 20th, 2009 Posted by | 100 posts in 100 days, Music Speaks | 2 comments

Pennsylvania Ave?