Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Fort Belvoir nursing chiefs in unique position as African Americans

Two military personnel, wearing masks, in a meeting Navy Capt. Jamesetta Goggins (left) and Army Col. Clausyl “C.J.” Plummer, deputy chief and chief nursing officers at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, meet in Plummer’s office on Feb. 2. (Photo by Reese Brown, Fort Belvoir Community Hospital Public Affairs.)

Recommended Content:

African American History Month | Heart Health Toolkit | Heart Health Toolkit | Nurses Week

Fort Belvoir Community Hospital at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, is in the unique position of having African Americans serving as both chief and deputy chief of nursing services. Army Col. Clausyl “C.J.” Plummer is the chief nursing officer, and Navy Capt. Jamesetta Goggins is deputy chief nursing officer.

“That has not happened in the history of this organization and it’s something I’m particularly proud of,” Plummer said.

African Americans in military medicine throughout history have paved the way for the professionals present in the ranks today, including the Nurse Corps.

In the Army Nurse Corps, Plummer noted, it started with Brig. Gen. Clara M. Adams-Ender, the 18th chief of the Army Nurse Corps. Adams-Ender was born in 1939 on a tobacco farm in Willow Springs, North Carolina. In 1987, after working as the chief of the department of nursing in the 97th General Hospital, chief of nurse recruiting at Fort Sheridan, Illinois, and chief of the department of nursing at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Adams-Ender was promoted to brigadier general and became the chief of the Army Nurse Corps.

In 1991, she was selected to be commanding general, Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and served in that capacity as well as deputy commanding general of the U.S. Military District of Washington until her retirement in 1993. “Gen. Adams-Ender really paved the way as an example that we, as African Americans, have the competence, the poise and the strategic outlook to hold some of these positions,” Plummer said. “She was followed by [Army Brig.] Gen. [Bettye] Simmons, who was an African American female as well, and currently the deputy corps chief is Army Col. Lozay Foots III.”

Plummer said that, without people like Adams-Ender and Simmons, he likely wouldn’t be where he is today, and he still looks to his predecessors for inspiration.

Painted portrait of Army Brig. Gen. Clara M. Adams-Ender (Ret.)
Portrait of Army Brig. Gen. Clara M. Adams-Ender (Ret.), the 18th chief of the Army Nurse Corps. (Courtesy of Army Nurse Corps Association.)

“I stand on their shoulders,” Plummer said. “These are persons who have made this possible and continue to mentor us. All of the people I mentioned are still alive, and many of us will periodically tap into their wisdom.

“Had it not been for their competence and the chance that they were given, many of us would not be able to serve honorably in the positions that we currently do,” Plummer said.

Goggins, too, said she owes a debt of gratitude to those who have come before her.

“When I came into the Navy almost 31 years ago, there weren’t very many Black nurses in the Navy. I didn’t encounter a Black commander in the Navy Nurse Corps until I became an officer in 1999,” Goggins said. “We’ve come a long way, but we still have a ways to go.”

Since then, she has looked to people of color who have taken opportunities and advanced as inspiration. In her current position, she said, she has made it a point to ensure that all qualified individuals have those opportunities, regardless of race.

“I want everyone to have the same opportunities I was afforded, and I try to make myself available for that,” Goggins said.

Plummer said that his advice for young African Americans thinking about a career, enlisted or officer, in military medicine is that there are always doors open to opportunity. He said that it’s just a matter of finding them and walking through them.

“I have been serving for 32 years without break in service,” Plummer said, but he had no idea he would be in the position that he’s in now over three decades ago.

Plummer enlisted in the Army after graduating college in his native Jamaica in 1989 and said he initially had no plans to serve longer than four years.

“I had no inclination to make the military a career. I simply thought it was something to help my family, enjoy the benefits of the GI Bill and leave after four years,” Plummer said.

“I was encouraged by an Army nurse to ‘humor her’ and go to the Army’s LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) school. She thought, then, that I might have made a good nurse and wanted to keep me in the military.

“I graduated as the distinguished honor graduate from LPN school, and that changed everything for me,” Plummer said. “It showed me that I had the ability to be a good nurse.”

Vintage photo of nurse sitting at a desk
Army Maj. Della H. Raney, a graduate of Lincoln Hospital School of Nursing in Durham, North Carolina, was the first Black nurse to be commissioned in the Army Nurse Corps. (Courtesy of National Archives.)

He now looks at himself as an example of someone who came in as a junior enlisted individual, who stayed out of trouble, who listened to guidance and took opportunities that were offered. He noted that people of other backgrounds should be looked at as allies rather than adversaries.

“Most of my mentors were actually White professionals,” Plummer said. “These are people who helped to guide me. My job was to be ready when they opened a door of opportunity. Ensure that you are ready so that you can walk through that door and perform.”

“I share my story because sometimes people may not see the future,” Plummer said. “Someone saw my future and I’m still serving 32 years later. I’m an O-6 and I’m contributing to the future of the Military Health System.”

Goggins agreed.

“We can learn from anyone, regardless of what their race or background is,” she said. “People look to people who look like them or have similar experiences to theirs, so it’s still important for us to be represented in the military and, specifically, in the medical field as we move forward. That being said, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you confine yourself only to people who look like you. We can all learn from each other.

“Bloom where you’re planted,” Goggins said. “Seek out good mentors, find opportunities to grow and to thrive in the environment that you are in.”

While there has been definite progress regarding race and equality in the time Plummer and Goggins have served, there is still work to be done.

“We’re ahead of the general populace in terms of our representation in military medicine,” Plummer said. “But we’re still not where we need to be based on some of the conversations I’ve been part of regarding the ‘social awakening’ our society has experienced over the last few years.”

Goggins concluded: “We have made contributions, but we still have a long way to go, and I’m looking forward to what is to come.”

You also may be interested in...

Navy tele-health supports Guam civilian hospital during COVID-19

Article
10/19/2020
Woman sitting in front of several computer monitors

[T]his is the first-ever DoD tasking for telemedicine support in response to a request from civil authorities for aid.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Combat Support | Global Health Engagement | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Nurses Week

NH Bremerton relies on experienced nurse to help new moms

Article
10/16/2020
Military personnel gives nurse an award

"Navy Medicine has taken me from novice to expert over a 20 year career..."

Recommended Content:

Combat Support | Women's Health | Patient Safety | Nurses Week

DHA encourages women leaders through Federal Women’s Program

Article
9/4/2020
Navy Rear Adm. Mary Riggs greets Army Maj. Angela Hinkson

What are the right tools for successful women leaders?

Recommended Content:

Women's Health | Nurses Week

BAMC nurses: “It’s us against COVID”

Article
8/6/2020
Group of nurses at a hospital

With safety on the line, mistakes aren’t an option when it comes to PPE.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Coronavirus | Nurses Week

Determined to Serve: Critical care nurse joins the Reserve at age 50

Article
7/22/2020
Two military healthcare workers wearing masks

The Air Force Reserve does indeed have a critical need for critical care nurses.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Coronavirus | Nurses Week

Air Force medical recruiting up while recruiters, applicants serve their communities

Article
6/10/2020
Four  military nurses wearing masks

The pandemic is increasing unemployment rates, driving many people to seek career paths in health sciences and military medicine.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Nurses Week

From the battlefield to the homefront: MHS nurses continue to serve

Article
5/12/2020
Seven soldiers standing behind an American flag

Nurses fill many roles including research, education, leadership

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Nurses Week

A passion for helping and leading: Nurse leads Air Force Medical Service

Article
5/11/2020
Image of Lt. Gen. Dorothy Hogg

During her 36-year career in the Air Force, Hogg has climbed through the ranks and became the first nurse, as well as the first woman, to hold the position of Air Force surgeon general.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Nurses Week

Nurses stay ready during COVID-19 pandemic

Article
5/11/2020
Image of two military nurses talking in a hospital hallway

MHS nurses go above and beyond the call of duty

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Nurses Week

The evolution of military nursing

Article
5/8/2020
Image of vintage military nurses

A look back on nurses who blazed the trail for nurses today

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Nurses Week

NMRTC Bremerton recognizes National Nurse Week/Navy Nurse Corps Birthday

Article
5/8/2020
image of nurse Amy Salzieder, with the statement "Nurses care for people, not just treat a person. In doing so, we receive the satisfaction of knowing that we have made a difference to patients and their families."

Nurses Care for People...Not Just Treat a Person.

Recommended Content:

Nurses Week

MHS Nurse Advice Line proves to be invaluable during COVID-19 pandemic

Article
5/7/2020
Image of a military nurse on the phone. Click to open a larger version of the image.

Learn about the NAL and other ways to get advice on COVID-19

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Nurses Week

Defending the Homeland: 'I Am Navy Medicine, helping stop the spread of COVID-19'

Article
5/7/2020
Image of nurse wearing a mask

NMRTC Bremerton’s Urgent Care Clinic (UCC) is a microcosm example of nurses – and teamwork - in action.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Coronavirus | Nurses Week

DoD to honor nurses during National Nurses Week 2020

Article
5/6/2020
Image of an OR nurse with mask and protective suit

National Nurses Week begins on National Nurses Day, May 6, and culminates May 12.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Nurses Week

National Nurses Week 2020

Video
5/5/2020
National Nurses Week 2020

Happy Nurses Week to all the Nurses who have served and continue to serve selflessly during the coronavirus pandemic.

Recommended Content:

Nurses Week
<< < 1 2 3 4 5 > >> 
Showing results 46 - 60 Page 4 of 5

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.