To celebrate Black History Month we will catch up with some current and former Coast Guard Academy cadet-athletes and learn about why they chose the Academy, their experiences here and what Black History Month means to them.
Collis Brown ('15) from Kingswood, Texas, was a record breaking, All-conference wide receiver for the Bears during his days as a cadet. He graduated with four records, three of which he still holds.
He set a pair of single-game records with 16 receptions and 244 yards in a win over Western New England in the 2013 season. Brown set the single-season record with 983 receiving yards in 2013 and he is the Bears all-time leader with 191 receptions. His single-season record of 983 yards was broken this season by Darius Adams, who had 1,054 yards this season.
When it came time to choose a college, Brown had a few criteria when he was looking to choose a college that was right for him - good academic program, close to family, affordable, and an opportunity to continue pursuing his athletic goals and the Coast Guard Academy checked every box.
"I received an outstanding education, although I had to travel across the country I was still near family (sister LTJG Larla Brown - CGA '14), no financial burden on my family, and I had the opportunity to play football for the Bears," said Brown.
Although the Academy is a challenging place at times, he would not change his experience as a cadet. "It was a big adjustment going from the freedom of being a high school student with seemingly endless opportunities ahead, to the rigors and demand of the Academy schedule," said Brown. "The biggest obstacle I had to overcome was the daily mental grind of being a cadet. There is no way to speed up the 200 week process and although it seemed there were days it would never end, looking back I am glad I went through the experiences that I did."
Brown believes that Black History Month that means a lot to our country and it is not a time to point out differences in other another, rather it's a time to remember those who did not live with the same liberties that millions of Americans are blessed with today.
"We need to celebrate the progress we have made as a country, and understand it is everyone's responsibility to ensure we continue to move in a positive direction. This month is special to me because it allows me to celebrate a unique part of my heritage," said Brown.
His father is a black man and he was raised by his mother, Jan Sadler, a white woman.
"There were times in American history that many people looked down on mixed race relationships and thought racial integration was detrimental to the good of the United States. I know my mom dealt with disapproval from friends and even some family because my sister and I were half black, but I can tell you, my mom never let my sister and I feel different," said Brown. "As a result, I am proud that I can say I have a degree from one of the best universities our country has to offer, and I am a commissioned officer in the world's greatest Coast Guard."
Upon graduation in 2015, Brown was assigned CGC NORTHLAND out of Portsmouth, Virginia where he had a number of jobs onboard including Weapons and Law Enforcement Officer, C3I Officer, and he is currently the Operations Officer.
He was recently promoted to LTJG, which he says is likely his greatest achievement to this point. "For me, receiving my first promotion in the Coast Guard is a big moment for me and my family. Seeing how much my classmates and I have achieved in our short careers makes me prouder than I could have imagined," said Brown.
Brown's most memorable moments after graduation have all come when he was underway, although he admits to dragging his feet on the way to the pier the last day before taking in all the lines knowing that he will be leaving his house, friends and American food that everyone takes for granted which is not an easy thing.
"However, when you do get out there and you get to see what the Coast Guard does first hand whether it's the high visibility drug interdiction, enforcing federal fisheries laws, or any of the other missions our service performs, you realize how necessary our organization is and how lucky we are to serve in such a fantastic service," said Brown.
The leadership skills he learned at the Academy both on and off the field and that are paramount to being a successful Junior Officer are how to prioritize tasks and not to let speed bumps derail forward progress.
"As a member of the football team, I started out each season with the goal to beat every team I faced with my brothers and prove that we could play with anyone despite the challenges we faced. As a Coast Guard Officer, I start off every day with a laundry list of things to do," said Brown. "Between my duties as Operations Officer, standing OOD watch, and a list of additional collateral duties with deadlines and significant impacts, I strive to leave no task unfinished."
However, much like when he played football, there are sometimes factors outside your control. "Sometimes when I stepped out on the field, I played against a team that flat out came to win and had what it took to do so on that day," added Brown. "Sometimes when I go into work, I am called away from my planned tasks and forced to tackle my own work list another day. In both situations, I learned that despite the challenges you faced that day, as long as you are progressing and giving your best effort you can still achieve meaningful goals."
Brown should receive his new assignment for his next tour within the next month and he is excited for something different. He prefers to continue doing the Law Enforcement mission with the Response Ashore community while in the Coast Guard and plans to stay in the service as long as he is having fun doing his job.