Saturday, April 9, 2011

Reflecting on "From Black Slaves to Blue Angels" Field Trip

The subject matter of the field trip, "From Black Slaves to Blue Angels: Exploring NAS Pensacola" interested me for a few reasons, one being a "Navy brat" who has long since lost her dependent status, it was an opportunity to be on old stomping grounds. The other and more lasting reason I was interested in this particular trip was that there was a connection with how slave labor was utilized by our government to build Naval Yard at the air station. Unfortunately, our expert on slave life was unable to join us on the trip and we did not get that in depth conversation on how the slaves truly shaped the base. But our guide at Fort Barrancas, David Ogden was beyond knowledgeable (as NPS guides usually are)about the structure of the fort, it's history and he even managed to talk about how these 6 million or so bricks were crafted by and put in place by these slaves.

Not only that, but while the fort was being built, there was not a massive amount of slave labor present, only about 60 at a time. The amount of time that the slaves put into the brickwork on the fort almost forces one to look past the fact that these men were slaves and look at them as an artisan, especially when cutting the bricks to fit into the arches just so. The attention to detail and recognizing the effort that the slaves had to put into the construction of this fort and quite honestly, any building constructed during the period of slavery makes me wonder how could anyone want to hide this portion of our history?

Leaving Fort Barrancas, we headed over to the very overwhelming Naval Aviation Museum. I grew up admiring the Blue Angels and to see some of the planes there was breath taking, as well as a little scary. I was walking around looking up at the planes above and suddenly, it hit me. I know that these planes are secured to their tethers and that they are NOT coming down but the random thought that they could come down was comically paralyzing. As I tiptoed from underneath the aircraft, it gave me the opportunity to look at the detail of the planes and realize that for years our military has depended on these machines to complete missions and protect our country.

Overall, wonderful trip with the most knowledgeable guides in Tim and Nancy and if ever I am in Pensacola again I would return to NAS Pensacola to dig a little deeper into their history.

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