Beneath clear blue skies and a billowing American flag, the NAS Patuxent River Morale, Welfare and Recreation Deputy Director Alicia Lawrence made history Sept. 26 with her promotion to chief warrant officer 5 at a Parade Field ceremony officiated by NAS Patuxent River Base Commanding Officer Ted Mills.
Surrounded by friends, fellow Sailors and coworkers, Lawrence became the first woman chief warrant officer 5 assigned to serve on board Pax River, as well as the first chief warrant officer 5 woman in her career field, foodservice officer with the supply department. She was one of 18 selected from a total of 205 candidates to be promoted to the rank.
"You must already be in the top 30 percent of the American population just to walk in the door of the Navy," Mills said. "To climb all the way to (chief warrant officer 5) means you are truly part of an elite group. This is the first time I'm seeing it in my career."
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Bryan Buckalew, the senior chief warrant officer at Pax, described chief warrant officers as a special group providing a bridge between the enlisted Sailor and the commissioned officer; trainers, advisers, leaders and specialists with years of technical experience who possess extraordinary qualities.
"With over 300,000 members of the Navy, you are being recognized as one exceptional individual," Buckalew said to Lawrence during the ceremony. "You have shown the drive and desire to step out. This is a major accomplishment and from the warrant officer ranks, we are thankful to have you."
Lawrence, who considered a career in the military after being inspired by the crisp uniforms of the recruiters who visited her high school nearly 30 years ago, exuded a quiet confidence as she addressed the crowd and spoke emotionally of how she finally came to realize God's plan and purpose for her life.
"I am in awe that I have finally reached the pinnacle of my military career, a milestone that was not easy to come by; nor do I take this promotion lightly," she said. "It is because of God's grace and mercy that he allowed this day to be. We all have a purpose and we all are destined for greatness. Do not allow anyone to deter you from your goals. Remain steadfast. Believe and trust in God."
Lawrence's shoulder boards were then ceremoniously changed to reflect her new rank by Mills and Rev. Roderick W. McClanahan, pastor of the First Baptist Missionary Church where Lawrence is a member while away from her home church in Suffolk, Va.
Lawrence, who arrived at Pax a little more than a year ago, was born in Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies, before migrating to the U.S. with her family in 1976.
In 1987, at the age of 21, she joined the Navy from Newark, N.J., and was assigned to 12 various commands as an enlisted Sailor before being selected for a commission while assigned to Recruiting Station Middletown, Conn., between Dec 1996 and April 1999.