Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Brent Pyfrom
NORFOLK, Va. – There is always a first. In the Navy so many firsts are spoken about that they become test questions. Well here’s one more first, the Navy’s first African-American, female Boatswains Mate (BM) chief warrant officer; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Summer Levert.
Levert is assigned to the amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) as the ship’s Bos’n. The ship’s Bos’n is an officer who is the subject matter expert on all major seamanship functions and the maintenance of topside gear such as; small boat operations, supervising anchoring, mooring, replenishment at sea, towing, transferring of personnel and cargo, and the operation and maintenance of ship’s boats. She is depended on by the ship’s captain to execute major seamanship evolutions safely and maintaining the external upkeep of the ship.
Levert, a Cleveland native, began her military service in the Army National Guard in 1997, and was assigned to a military police company. After her time with the National Guard was completed, she decided to join the Navy, and in October of 2000, become a boatswain’s mate. After making chief petty officer in 2011, Levert wanted more from her career and set her sights on becoming a chief warrant officer. In 2014, she applied to the chief warrant officer program and was selected.
“Coming up as a junior Sailor in a male dominated field I knew there would be times I’d have to prove to them that I deserved to be there as much as they did,” Levert said. “There were times I felt I had something to prove or that I wasn’t strong enough, and now by looking at what I have accomplished thus far I realize that the only thing to prove was that goals can be reached through hard work and perseverance.”
When achieving success there are always obstacles to overcome. Some obstacles are harder than others, but Levert, an African-American woman, continued to use her family, friends and mentors for inspiration to get her where she is today.
“My first inspiration was my twin sister, who was also a BM in the Navy, but had joined before me. My second inspiration is my mom, who was an Army nurse in the reserves, and then there were the Bosn’s that I worked for and observed throughout my years as a BM. They were the smartest people I knew. They taught me my job so well that I thought they read Naval Ships’ Technical Manuals in their sleep. They were respected everywhere they went, and I knew that it was well deserved. That’s what I wanted to be in my wildest dreams.”
According to multiple Sailors on Mesa Verde; Levert is the Bos’n she’s looked up to throughout her career. Her leadership echoes throughout the ship and can be seen and heard during any boat operation; one can hear her calling out orders and making sure Sailors comply with safety procedures. It’s safe to say that deck department has a female leader who knows what it takes to achieve mission and personal success.
“Bos’n is very humble. She believes in hard work and effort; and only desires to be measured by her character and deed,” said Lt. Alvin Weidetz III, USS Mesa Verde’s deck department head. “Woe betides the Sailor, junior or senior, that steps out of line or throws safety to the wind. But at the end of every evolution, Bos’n will count heads ensuring all are safe and sound, laud each and everyone for their efforts and encourage their improvements to do better.”
In December of 2015, she received a plaque of recognition for her service from her hometown U.S. Representative, Marcia L. Fudge, which she viewed as a great honor.
At the end of the day Levert has made Mesa Verde and Navy history, but it’s not the past that motivates her; it’s the Sailors’ and their futures.
“My Sailors motivate me. Not the fact that I’m the first this or that. Through all the madness, the long days, and feelings of wanting to give up, I always think about the young Sailors that tell me how much they admire me, how much they want to be like me someday. If I quit they’ll think it is ok to quit and that’s not the message I want to send.”