Breaking Barriers

March 26, 2024

Episode 313

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Dive into the latest episode, as Andrea Motley Crabtree shares her groundbreaking journey from joining the Army in 1977 to becoming the first Black female deep-sea diver across all U.S. military branches and the U.S. Army’s first female deep-sea diver.  Conquering intense training, her story of perseverance and the power of support will inspire you.  This is truly a story of courage and determination. 

Audio mixing by Concentus Media, Inc., Temple, Texas. 

Show Notes: 


Andrea Motley Crabtree, Ret. U.S. Army Master Sergeant enlisted in May 1977 and served through April 1998.  Her MOS were 35E series, Signal Corps/Ordnance and 00B Deep Sea Diver, Second Class, Engineer.  She entered the Delayed Entry Program (DEP) in February 1977 to May 1977 (PV1).  Then was shipped from Detroit MEPS to Basic Training at Ft McClellan, Alabama in May of 1977, and then graduated in July 1977 E 1st Battalion 1st Brigade (PV2).  Attended Advance Individual Training (AIT) Ft. Belvoir, Virginia 35E20 and 35E30 Senior Special Electrical and Electronic Device Repairman August 1977 to January 1978 (PFC).  Then participated in Hometown Recruiting Program USADRC January to February 1978. 

Duty stations: 513th Maintenance Battalion 3rd ACR Ft Bliss, Texas February 1978 to May 1979 (SP4), 614th Maintenance Battalion Attachment 71st Maintenance Battalion Nuremberg, Germany July 1979 to May 1980 (SP5).  Reenlisted for Ft Ord California to get SCUBA certified.  Then stationed with Co A 707th Maintenance Battalion 7th Infantry Division Ft Ord California June 1980 to September 1981.  Fourth permanent duty station. 86th Diving Detachment 30th Engineer Battalion Ft Belvoir Virginia Oct 81 to Jan 83. Petroleum Distribution Systems Pohang Korea January 1983 to January 1984 (SSG).  511th Diving Detachment 30th Engineer Battalion Ft Belvoir, Virginia January 1984 to 1985 reclassified.  HHC USAG, 313 SIG CO, then to HHC USAG, G1, Ft Hood Texas 1985 to 1986.  DA selected for recruiting duty.  TDY To Ft. Benjamin Harris for recruiting school and graduated May 1987.  Recruiting duty. Newburgh Recruiting Battalion, Newburgh New York June 1987 to July 1988.  Ft. Gordon, GA for ANOC August 1988 to December 1988.  HQ&A 360th Signal Battalion, 15th Signal Brigade, Ft. Gordon GA. Assigned as instructor November 1988 to March 1990. Drill Sergeant School, Ft. Jackson, SC. January 1990 to March 1990.  Assigned as Drill Sergeant C Co. 360th Signal Battalion, 15th Signal Brigade, Ft. Gordon, GA March 1990 to March 1992.  HHC 17th Signal BN. APO, AE 09225 April 1992 to December 1993.  HHC USAG Ft. Carson, Colorado January 1994 to October 1995. Headquarters & Headquarters, 307th Signal BN. Camp Carroll Korea, APO Area Pacific 96260 February 1996 to September 1996. HHC DISCOM, 101st Airborne Division (AASLT), Ft. Campbell, Kentucky 42223, FORSCOM September 1996 to April 1998. 

Certified by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and the National Association of SCUBA Diving schools (NASDS).  But then turned down promotion to Staff Sergeant to be eligible for dive school.  Enroute to Ft Rucker Alabama, assigned there for UCMJ while TDY to United States Navy Diving & Salvage Training Center Panama City Beach, Florida. In October 1981 arrived at dive school, failed swim test.  She was given one week to practice, and retake swim test, but failed second swim test. She disenrolled herself and this allowed for the opportunity to come back to school later, as flunking out would not allow a return to the course. In October 1981 assigned to HHC 30th Engineer Battalion Ft. Belvoir Virginia home of the 511th Diving Detachment, and 86th Diving Detachment. She went swimming every day to improve her time.  In November 1981 TDY Ft Eustis, Virginia to attend two-week diver pre-screen course.  January 1982 went back to dive school and in April 1982 graduated.

She has also participated and medaled in the National Senior Games in shot put, discus, javelin, and table tennis.  She loves Pickleball and tries to play five days a week. Her picture hangs at the U. S. Army Women’s Museum at Fort Gregg Adam’s, the painting of her by Henry Taylor hangs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Before We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room, Tavares Strachan did a piece titled: In Plain Sight, Distant Relatives a piece at displayed at the Marian Goodman Gallery. She was a consultant for the book Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan. She is included in the book The Only Woman by Immy Humes, (A book that spotlights 100 historical photographs of lone woman hidden among groups of men). Who’s Who of American Women, Who’s Who of Emerging Leaders in America. Member of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society, and her Website:

She owned and operated Crabtree & Sons Lawn Maintenance, Inc., substitute taught for two years, and studied computer science at Aiken Technical College.  She has three sons and a grandchild on the way.  Andrea is also a two-time cancer survivor.

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