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  • After 60 years, black military officers rare

    WASHINGTON - Sixty years after President Truman desegregated the military, senior black officers are still rare, particularly among the highest ranks.

    Blacks make up about 17 percent of the total force, yet just 9 percent of all officers. That fraction falls to less than 6 percent for general officers with one to four stars, according to data obtained and analyzed by The Associated Press.

    The rarity of blacks in the top ranks is apparent in one startling statistic: Only one of the 38 four-star generals or admirals serving as of May was black. And just 10 black men have ever gained four-star rank — five in the Army, four in the Air Force and one in the Navy, according to the Pentagon.

    The dearth of blacks in high-ranking positions gives younger African-American soldiers few mentors of their own race. And as the overall percentage of blacks in the service falls, particularly in combat careers that lead to top posts, the situation seems unlikely to change.

    'Uncle Sam' poster
    Still, officials this week can point to some historic gains by blacks in the services as the Pentagon commemorates Truman’s signing of an executive order on July 26, 1948, mandating the end of segregation in the military.

    Best known among the four-stars is retired Gen. Colin Powell, who later became the country’s first black secretary of state, under President Bush. Another is retired Gen. Johnnie E. Wilson, who in 1961, at age 17, spied an “Uncle Sam Wants You” poster and joined the Army.

    The second of 12 children, Wilson grew up in a housing project outside Cleveland. Enlisting in the Army, he said, was the only way he’d get a college education.

    As a young recruit, he found that the older, black noncommissioned officers were eager to guide him, and they urged him to try for Officer Candidate School. Over the next 38 years, he rose through the ranks to become a four-star general.

    Why haven’t more done the same?

    For one thing, Wilson said, “it’s hard to tell young people the sky’s the limit when they look up and don’t see anyone” who looks like them.

    According to Pentagon data, as of May:

    5.6 percent of the 923 general officers or admirals were black.
    Eight blacks were three-star lieutenant generals or vice admirals.
    Seventeen were two-star major generals or rear admirals.
    Twenty-six were one-star brigadier generals or rear admirals.
    Three of the black one-stars were women.
    The Army has led the way with black officers, with nearly double the percentage at times over the past three decades as the other services. Blacks represented 11 percent to 12 percent of all Army officers during that time, compared with 4 percent to 8 percent in the Navy, Air Force and Marines.

    The reasons for the lack of blacks in the higher ranks are many and complex, ranging from simple career choices to Congress and family recommendations. Most often mentioned is that black recruits are showing less interest in pursuing combat jobs, which are more likely to propel them through the officer ranks.

    “Kids I’ve spoken to, who choose to do supply, who choose to do lawyer, who choose to do admin, have the impression that ’If I go to Army and become an infantry person, that is not a skill that I can carry to the civilian work force,”’ said Clarence Johnson, director of the Pentagon’s Office of Diversity Management.

    Wilson — who specialized in logistics and did not take the combat route — said he does not believe ROTC programs or the military steer black recruits to the non-combat jobs — although that may have been a problem many years ago.

    'They want to prepare for a future'
    Instead, he said young black officers choose other fields because “they want to prepare for a future outside of the military, and they believe that being in communications, being in logistics will provide them a better opportunity to succeed.”

    In 1998, nearly a quarter of all active duty black officers were in various combat fields. As of this month, that had fallen to 20 percent, compared with nearly 40 percent for non-blacks, according to Pentagon data.

    This year, roughly half of all black active duty officers gravitated toward supply, maintenance, engineering and administrative jobs — almost double the rate of non-black officers.

    “That tells me, honestly, over the years the pipeline for those blacks going to general officer is not going to be markedly improved above what it is now,” Johnson said.

    He said he hears recruits say, “I’m joining this ROTC thing, so that when I get out in four years or eight years, whatever time frame it is, I want a skill I can use.”

    Army Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq, echoes those pipeline concerns.

    “It’s all about how many people you put in the front end of the pipe,” Austin said in an interview from Baghdad. “It’s very difficult for anybody to get to be a colonel or general in any branch of the service if you don’t have enough young officers coming in.”

    More here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25809737/


    sad. wonder also about middle Eastern and Asian MP.
    ‘Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.’
    Oscar Wilde

  • #2
    I see black officers ever so often. There's only one on my base and one CWO3.

    Comment


    • #3
      Most blacks in the military--like most whites--don't have college degrees, which comes in real handy if you want to be an officer, so the base number of 17% doesn't mean anything. I guy going in who knows he isn't going to be a lifer will have better civilian job offers if he/she gets commissioned in a non-combat arms branch.

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      • #4
        "I guy" should read "A guy." Also, I wouldn't be surprised if the per capita number of blacks in the military with a college degree was higher than in the general population.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by just joe View Post
          Most blacks in the military--like most whites--don't have college degrees, which comes in real handy if you want to be an officer, so the base number of 17% doesn't mean anything. I guy going in who knows he isn't going to be a lifer will have better civilian job offers if he/she gets commissioned in a non-combat arms branch.
          Isnt a college degree required to become an officer in the armed forces?
          The Red, Bold, Italic is my official sarcasm tag.



          "I think many years ago an advanced civilization intervened with us genetically and gave us just enough intelligence to develop dangerous technology but not enough to use it wisely. Then they sat back to watch the fun. Kind of like a human zoo. And you know what? They're getting their money's worth"
          George Carlin

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          • #6
            Mostly yes, but in some cases no. The navy in the 80's was (and maybe still is) commissioning pilots and flight officers with two year degrees. I also knew a guy who was commissioned prior to graduating college. I also used to work for a guy who received a battlefield commission during the Korean War and he didn't have any college at the time. IIRC, in the army you can't be promoted above the rank of captain without a four year degree. I am also not clear on whether this study includes warrant officers (but I think not) and you don't need a degree to be a warrant officer.

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            • #7
              The dearth of blacks in high-ranking positions gives younger African-American soldiers few mentors of their own race.
              I challenge this statement.

              What would they say about the percentage of Black E-9's?

              I like to think most REAL soldiers see beyond race when they look for mentoring and inspiration.

              We in the Military tend to make a lot less fuss about these things than the media lets on.

              M-11
              “All men dream...... But not equally..
              Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find it is vanity;
              but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men,
              for they act their dreams with open eyes to make it possible.....”

              TE Lawrence

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by texaschickeee View Post
                WASHINGTON - Sixty years after President Truman desegregated the military, senior black officers are still rare, particularly among the highest ranks.
                And?

                The great thing about the military (or most civil service jobs like mine) is race isn't an issue in the promotion process (neither is sex or favorite partner for that matter). It's based on points, time served, education and what-not.

                Pretty much everybody, by design, is on an equal footing.

                Colin Powell did ok for himself.

                I'm white and I'll never be a Lt., Capt., or Chief. Why? Because I don't want to go to College (well, I want to but I'm 34 and my wife doesn't trust me around a bunch of 20 year old girls). But thats my choice, the man isn't holding me back.

                Also I prefer to remain a non-exempt employee. I don't like working overtime, but I do like getting paid for it.
                "Why is common sense so rare?" - Me

                By the way.. They aren't "Clients" or "Customers" they're CRIMINALS... sheesh

                Comment


                • #9
                  The fair comparison would be "what is the percentage of blacks in the military who meet the qualifications to be officers" vs. the same for whites or other ethnic groups.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    In my small, rural department the same could be said for black officers. We have 1 full-time black female (who made corporal after just 2 years) and 1 black male part-time officer (who resigned his full-time position as a sergeant to teach a public safety course at the local trade school 4 years ago). We have a total of 11 sworn officers including a part-time investigator (retired captain of detectives with the local S.O.) and the part-time officer/teacher.

                    For every application that we receive regardless of what race/sex the applicants are, most are never seriously considered due to something in their background or information regarding their character, especially regarding their honesty and integrity, etc.

                    I believe that this topic has as much to do with LE as any other topic here IMHO for this reason. My agency has been criticized in the past for not having more black officers. Some people just aren't happy unless they have some thing to complain or whine about.

                    The military has a set of standards and they go by them. I certainly don't believe that there's any sinister plot to keep blacks from being promoted. As someone else posted, Colin Powell didn't seem to have any problems rising to the top in the U.S. Army.

                    As TX Heat posted in his post, I'd like to see a comparison of the percentage of blacks (or any other ethnic group) in the military who meet the qualifications vs. the same for whites in the military.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      They are promoted based on ability, apptitude, intelligence, etc ... not color. Color means nothing.

                      That's just how the cookie crumbles then.
                      "That's right man, we've got mills here that'll blow that heap of your's right off the road."

                      "Beautiful Daughter of the Stars."(it's my home now)

                      >>>>> A Time for Choosing <<<<<

                      Retired @ 31yr 2mo as of 0000 hrs. 01-01-10. Yeah, all in all, it was good.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I think the saddest thing about all this is that 60 years ago a persons race made no difference on paper. The law reads the same and yet we still look for it to be a problem.

                        Seriously, until people stop making it the issue it will continue to be one.

                        I hate that when I fill out a forum I have to list my ethnicity. I am proud of my heritage and I am not ashamed of what color I am. But it seems like its only feeding some irrelevent statistic to be blown up and show how terrible it must be that people making their own choices are not making the numbers that someone thinks is fair.

                        The second saddest part is that this probably should be in the military sub-forum given its specific nature or perhaps the civil rights or even various topics areas. Now if this was expanded to include stats on LE as a whole this might be more relevent here. Nonetheless its still a post summed up be the whining of one person that the numbers don't show what they want.

                        Did the articles author ever consider that maybe the blacks that served, got a degree and then got out because even as an officer you still can make more as a civilian. So the article could then be titled dumb white folk stay in despite being educated.

                        Im done.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Quote:
                          The dearth of blacks in high-ranking positions gives younger African-American soldiers few mentors of their own race.
                          Why do you need someone of the same race to be a mentor? I am white and my best mentors in the military were of many nationalities and races including Samoan.
                          Not having many people of "your" race is a weak excuse for under achieving.
                          BTW I had a large number of First Sergeants and a Sergeant Majors that were black. The reason that they were not officers is because they had no college degrees and when they came in in the 80s it was not common for soldiers to have a degree.

                          Here is one way that you get to be an officer in the military:
                          Get a degree
                          Apply to the military
                          Go to basic training then officer training

                          It is easy.

                          Race is no excuse for anybody whether it be affirmative action opponents or "the Man keeping me down" pundits.
                          Make the world a better place....punch a hippie in the face.

                          Be polite to everyone but be ready to kill them at a moments notice.

                          Former 11B3P, airborne!

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                          • #14
                            its a shame that minorities are very often hired over a possibly more skilled individual to encourage "diversity"

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by M-11 View Post
                              I challenge this statement.

                              I like to think most REAL soldiers see beyond race when they look for mentoring and inspiration.

                              We in the Military tend to make a lot less fuss about these things than the media lets on.

                              After spending 10 years in the Marine Corps. I couldnt agree more. The media doesnt have a clue what life is like in the military. Everyone is the same color.....GREEN.
                              sigpic

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