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Diversity Remains A Priority At DoD, Official Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 23, 2007 – The Defense Department has made significant gains in placing more minorities and women in senior military and civilian positions in recent years, a senior official said at a DoD-sponsored African-American History Month observance luncheon yesterday at Hampton University, Va.

Yet, the department can do more, said Clarence A. Johnson, DoD’s principal director and director for civilian equal employment opportunity within the department’s office of diversity management and equal opportunity.

“We’d certainly like to see more diversity and better representation of all minorities in senior civilian and military grades,” Johnson said. “We’d also like to see more minorities and women in some of the key occupations that have a better prospect of leading to the senior ranks and grades.”

The Hampton University luncheon was part of annual DoD-sponsored African American History Month workshops and seminars that reach out to students attending historically black colleges and universities to demonstrate the diverse and rewarding civilian and military careers DoD has to offer. Last year’s event was held at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas.

The theme for DoD’s 2007 African American History Month observance and outreach activities is, “Reaching Out to Youth: A Strategy for Excellence.”

Students at the luncheon are part of the future of America, Johnson, a former Air Force colonel, said. He challenged them to engage in public service or related private-sector endeavors so that they could more fully participate in the nation’s democracy.

“If you discount military or public service as you consider your options, you’ll miss a whole lot of opportunity right before you,” Johnson said.

Whether leading troops in battle, flying a jet off the deck of an aircraft carrier on the high seas, or conducting nuclear research, young people who join the military or DoD’s civilian work force perform important missions while gaining leadership skills and responsibilities unavailable anywhere else, Johnson said.

Johnson also praised 11 African-American servicemen and women who’d been selected for DoD recognition for their contributions in the global war against terrorism. Johnson had presented the servicemembers with signed certificates at an award ceremony held the previous day.

The honored African-American servicemen and women are “heroes who indeed are reflective of the superb men and women of our military,” Johnson said. He also asked the audience to salute all servicemembers defending the nation.

America’s military members “volunteer to put their lives at risk to safeguard our freedom and our way of life,” Johnson said.

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Clarence A. Johnson

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