Friday, January 15, 2010

A Few Good African American Men and Women

One of the Commandant of the Marine Corps' recruiting goals is to recruit to the "face of the nation."  This nation is 12 percent African American and 14 percent Hispanic American.  It is the goal of the Marine Corps to represent this diversity within our ranks, at all levels.  Over the past few years, the Marine Corps has been a popular choice for Hispanic Americans; 17 percent of Marines are Hispanic, even greater than the percentage of Hispanic individuals in our nation's population as a whole.  Hispanic Marines are setting the example throughout the Marine Corps, with one noteworthy example being Brigadier General Angela Salinas, the first Marine Latina General Officer, who just completed a tour as the commanding officer of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego.  Yet only nine percent of Marines are African American.
This is a problem throughout all the services, particularly when it comes to attracting African Americans who are qualified to be officers.  The Government Accountability Office reported that the number of African American officers began to decline in all service branches in 2003, as did the number of African Americans enrolled in NROTC.  Part of a research study done by the Department of Defense Youth Polls in 2006-2008 gives one possible reason why - African Americans lack confidence that they can be successful in the military.  Amongst 16-24-year-olds who are college bound or enrolled in college, African Americans were less confident than their white and Hispanic counterparts that they could complete boot camp or officer candidates school, fight in a war, meet the requirements for enlistment, and qualify for a good job.  African Americans were less confident about their prospects for success in the military than their white and Hispanic counterparts in every category surveyed.  The Marine Corps prides itself on its ability to transform women and men of all geographic, economic, and racial backgrounds into warriors either at boot camp or officer candidates school.  So why is it that African Americans lack confidence in us that we can make them into Marines?      
In February, the Marine Corps will launch a new commercial celebrating Black History Month.  There will also be print ads and online advertising to support the commercial.  This is the second year that the Marine Corps has made a commercial specifically for Black History Month; last year's commercial featured Major General (retired) Bolden and Lieutenant General (retired) Peterson.
But will our efforts be enough to communicate to African Americans that they can be successful in the Marine Corps?
*Note: This post was actually written by Capt Amelia Kays


  1. This is a sad day for the Corps. Whatever happened to every Marine being green? One of the many reasons the Marine Corps is better than the civilian population is because of our unwaivering equality regardless of race, religion, etc. I just saw a commercial on TV advertising the history of black Marines. What? I thought we were all green? The Marine Corps has always been about integrity and every Marine is equal to the Marine to the right or left. Let's not start drawing lines in our ranks by adding color. We have a proud tradition of not having to be politically correct because we don't have classes like the civilian population. Every Marine is a Marine, regardless of race. We never highlighted victories or accomplishments because a Marine was black, white, hispanic, asian, etc. We highlighten their accomplishment because they were an outstanding Marine. Please don't allow the Marine Corps I grew up with to follow in the footsteps of petty civilian classifications.

    Semper Fi,
    Sean F
    Sgt/USMC Ret.

  2. No worries Sean; nobody I know of is drawing lines within our Corps. However, there is a clear line appearing outside of the Corps and it concerns us. So what’s the issue? Does the Corps need to do a better job of illustrating its "all green" nature or providing adequate examples of success to those who are not yet Marines? Is the lack of confidence in the cited poll aimed at actually being a Marine, or rather at a belief that the skills and experiences gained won't be applicable to getting a job after serving?

    The truth is that we’re not sure what the issue is, but we’d really like to know so we can address it.

    If you believe, as I do, that the greatest strength of the Corps lies in the spectrum of diverse races, cultures, languages, religions, and experiences you find even among the four members of a Marine fire team, then anything threatening the diversity of its Marines threatens the source of its strength. As you well know, being “green” is not some brainwashing experiment that makes Marines all think alike, but it is an attitude of acceptance among Marines that embraces and encourages these differences as assets.

    An experience during tsunami-relief operations a few years back illustrates my point. As the guy charged with communicating with a very diverse population, I lucked out within hours of arriving in Colombo, Sri Lanka, when a Colombo-born Sinhalese Marine captain walked in the door and said he was my new roommate. He got me smart fast, and dinner with his parents still living there taught me volumes (including this: “very mild” is still really spicy). Miraculously, a U.S. sailor of Tamil ethnicity later joined us just days before moving north into territory held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to provide medical assistance during a rare cease fire. While the Sinhalese majority government and Tamil separatists have struggled violently with each other for nearly three decades, our small band of multi-racial, multi-cultural Marines and sailors, both men and women, operated flawlessly under the tutelage of these Sinhalese and Tamil U.S. service members working side by side. I hope the example encouraged our hosts.

    I had a similar experience during earthquake-relief operations in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

    With experiences like this, I don’t buy for a minute the any “labeled” group of Americans lacks the ability to earn the title. Still, there appear to be groups of Americans who can’t see themselves as Marines, and we’re not quite sure why. Any ideas?

    Capt. Eric Tausch
    "Midwest Marines"


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