During the mid-1960s, a small group of African American officers assigned to the Regular Course Class of 1965 at the United States Army Commanding General Staff College (CGSC) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, met in their homes to enhance their knowledge of the course work assignments that were passed out each evening in the form of a document printed on a blue sheet of paper jokingly dubbed “A Blue Goose.” The study group called itself the “Blue Geese” study group because if a member of the group received one of the special assignments to brief the class on the next day on the strategies that would be used to arrive at an acceptable military solution, each member of the study group participated in helping the selected member receiving the blue goose by providing their expertise in such areas as combat, combat services, combat service support, and logistics.
They dubbed themselves “The Blue Geese” and through the study group, the members became life-long friends and vowed to keep in touch. Several members of the study group, who were later assigned to the Washington, D.C. area, resumed their relationship by meeting in the home of then LTC and Mrs. Robert B. “Bobbie” Burke Suitland, MD. During 1973, several African American officers assigned to the Washington, DC area gave major parties that invited many of the same people. Because of this, Colonel Burke held a meeting at his home and invited many of the officers assigned to the Washington, DC area to meet MG Frederick E. Davison and other senior officers. At one of the meetings, it was decided to form a social group to network, mentor, and socialize together. At a later gathering called by Colonel Burke to plan a networking social at the Cameron Station Officer’s Club, BG Roscoe Cartwright was invited as the keynote speaker. He challenged those in attendance to continue getting to know each other, mentor junior officers, and help each other whenever possible. At a later meeting, the assembled group could not agree upon a permanent name. In the interest of having an identity, they called themselves “The No Name Club.”
During the planning for the group’s first New Year’s Eve Party and at a special planning meeting held at the home of Col (Ret.) Travis Gafford, on December 1, 1974, the word was received that BG (Ret.) Roscoe Cartwright and his wife, Gloria, were both killed in an airplane crash near Dulles Airport as they were returning from a Thanksgiving holiday visit with their daughter. Before the meeting adjourned, it was agreed that the organization should be named after General “ROCK” Cartwright and be known as “The ROCKS.” This name was voted upon, and it was unanimously agreed that the “No Name Club” rename itself “The ROCKS, Inc.” It was also decided that a scholarship fund is established within “The ROCKS” and be named the Roscoe C. Cartwright Scholarship Fund.
Since the ROCKS organization was physically located in the Washington, DC area, it became known as the DC Chapter of The ROCKS. The original group grew from 34 members, known as the ROCKS charter members, into a worldwide organization of over 1100 members, 14 chapters, and 2 interest groups. The DC Chapter is the largest chapter in the ROCKS and today has 200 active members. It has conducted all of the ROCKS’ social functions in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. The DC Chapter sponsors several major ROCK activities: including an annual golf tournament, a yearly 5-miler race / 2-miler walk, the Annual Spring Gala and the Awards Gala, the West Hamilton Dinner, and monthly meetings to discuss chapter business and programs and to invite guest speakers to give informative and inspirational talks on leadership and military career development topics.
In 1994, The ROCKS were incorporated and today has become a non-profit 501c(3) organization, comprised of active duty, reserve, retired ROTC cadets, and former commissioned officers of the U.S. Armed Forces, widows and widowers of deceased members, and other uniformed services. In 2009, the D.C. Chapter applied for and received the Combined Federal Campaign designation. Its CFC# code, used for making designations, is 76674. Since receiving the CFC designation, the D.C. Chapter has received $2,500.00.
After the formation of the National Board of Directors of “The ROCKS, Inc.” and the spread of chapters throughout the world, the DC Chapter continued to support the national goals and objectives. Its president was appointed as vice-chairman on the national board of directors.
There have been 11 Presidents of “The ROCKS” DC Chapter. They are COL (Ret.) Robert B. Burke, Jr.; COL (Ret.) Harry W. Townsend; COL (Ret.) Harvey G. Dickerson; COL (Ret.) Clarence Barrens; BG George Price; COL (Ret.) Tommy T. Osborne; COL (Ret.) James M. Bosley; MG (Ret.) Fredric H. Leigh; BG (Ret.) Clara L. Adams-Ender; BG Velma L. Richardson; and COL Conrado B. Morgan.
The DC Chapter has grown in membership and recognition. The meetings are well attended, and the members work hard to achieve the Chapter goals and objectives. A web page has been designed and set up and is located at http://www.therocksdc.org/. The ROCKS live by its core competencies: mentorship and professional development, leadership outreach in ROTC enhancement, scholarship, community involvement, and networking.