IT IS THE YEAR OF THE MUSTANG
From now until our next Symposium in Portsmouth, Virginia I am declaring the year, “Year of the Mustang”. We will feature this theme at our website and in social media, and stories about a few of our Prior Enlisted men and women of NNOA who have helped make our Sea Services great. I was raised by LDOs and CWOs as an Ensign on USS LONG BEACH (CGN 9) and revere their professionalism, knowledge, and drive to succeed. Please join me in reaching out to our Mustang Officers to let them know how much we value their service.
THIS MONTH NNOA CELEBRATES THE SERVICE OF MUSTANG OFFICER
CAPTAIN DONALD H. FLOWERS, United States Navy
By Retired CDR Denise J. McCalllaCreary, USN
When civilians hear the word “Mustang” the first thing that comes to mind is a car. When sea services Officers hear the word “Mustang”, they think specialist, professional, experience, prior enlisted service and much more. These adjectives are just a few that describe our first Mustang Officer to be featured in our yearlong recognition of Mustangs who are members of the National Naval Officers Association (NNOA), Captain Donald H. Flowers, United States Navy, Retired.
Captain Donald H. Flowers, United States Navy enlisted in the Navy in 1962 as an E1. A native of Chicago, Illinois his leadership skills were recognized at an early age when he was selected as student Council President in his elementary school and already recognized for his leadership skills by the Kiwanis Club of Chicago. He was President and Vice President of his high school student council and Vice President of his high school graduating class.
Joining the Navy in 1962 and having a successful career was no easy feat. His credentials made him a qualified candidate, but the experiences to follow formed lasting memories of hard work and perseverance to achieve his goals. He recalls, “I entered the Navy in May of 1962. Going through Basic Training and Electrician Mate ‘A’ School in San Diego, California, the playing field was far from being equal for all. Interestingly, I was the only African American in my Electrician Mate ‘A’ School class. Looking back this proved to be just the beginning of being the only one.”
Captain Flowers was further “disheartened” when he reported to his first ship the USS Constellation (CVA64), in Hong Kong, April 1963, and of 149 men in his division, he was the only African American. However, he wasn’t disheartened for long. Not finding any products in the ship’s store for him, being subjected to country and western music 24 hours a day he recalls with a smile, was my welcome to life at sea. Captain Flowers continued, my eyes opened to the fact that as the only African American, if I was to succeed in the Navy, I had to be better at what I did than anyone else to be respected as a person and a technician.
This determination was not easy for him. While his Shipmates were on liberty, he would be in his bunk studying. As an E3, he completed all the requirements for E9. At this point, he had not decided to make the Navy a career. His only decision was to be the best Petty Officer he could be. He wanted to be prepared. And prepared he was.
After serving fourteen years in the enlisted ranks, many years of sea duty and tours in Vietnam from 1968-1969, he applied and was accepted for commission in 1976. He skipped Officer basic training and was ordered directly to the USS Wabash (AOR 5) in Alameda, California.
Captain Flowers recounts his years as a commissioned Officer as years of challenges, successes and strong resolve. He suffered through name calling being African American, given more than his share of work, lack of respect for his rank but as he said, “with God’s grace, success and upward mobility was achieved.” He also credits his success to the unwavering support of his family, especially his wife, Callie. He recalls how even Callie experienced racism back then. Base Security was called to arrest Callie for being in the backyard of Senior Officers quarters the day before they moved into them on Mare Island Navy Base, Vallejo, California in 1986. She was asked by an Admiral’s wife, how much she charged for cleaning houses, as she was standing outside our Senior Officers quarters”, Captain Flowers recalled, Norfolk, Virginia in 1991.
A member of NNOA since 1979, and a Life Member since 1992, he has mentored Enlisted personnel and numerous Officers credits him for their success in ranks from 01 to O-9. He is a recipient of the two highest awards in NNOA, the Dorie Miller and the Lifetime Achievement award. It is no wonder Captain Flowers is revered by members of the NNOA.
His stellar service in NNOA began in the San Diego Chapter. He established the first NNOA Chapter in Port Hueneme. He then went on to serve in the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter and the Tidewater Chapter, returning to the San Francisco Bay area Chapter upon retirement from the Navy in 2000. During those active duty years, Captain Flowers held Chapter leadership positions, served on the Board of Directors and initiated many programs that are still on going in some of these Chapters today.
Captain Flowers personal decorations include the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal (three awards), Navy Commendation Medal with Combat “V” (three awards), Navy Achievement Medal with combat “V” (three awards) Combat Action Ribbon, Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal (three awards), Armed Forces Expeditionary medal, and numerous other awards and medals.
Captain Flowers is a Dad of seven children and currently resides in Vallejo, California with his wife Callie. His pride and joy these days are his grandchildren. Of them, grandson, Major Bruce Manual Jr, United States Marine Corps is a Naval Academy graduate, class of 2008. An Air Traffic Control Officer, Bruce is now a student at the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California majoring in Information Warfare System Engineering. Granddaughter, Major Valerie Manuel, USA-R, is a Logistic Officer who has seen tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ensign Ramon Johnson, USN is at University of California, Los Angeles Dental school under a Navy scholarship. With over 38 plus years of active duty military service motivating and mentoring numerous officers, their families and enlisted personnel and the same dedication to serving in 19 years of retirement, the Flowers military legacy started by this “Mustang” Officer will live on.
NNOA is honored to celebrate Captain Flowers’ career as a Mustang and appreciates his years of service to the National Naval Officers Association, the United States Navy and the United States of America.