DoD Aims to Attract More Hispanics to Its Work Force
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 12, 2004 The Defense Department is increasingly reaching out to Hispanic organizations to get the word out about the broad range of military and civil service opportunities open to Hispanics, the Pentagon's top personnel officer told the American Forces Press Service today.
Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness David S.C. Chu said Hispanic representation in the armed forces has grown steadily during the past 10 years, and that DoD is continuing to make a concerted effort to attract more Hispanics to its work force.
Hispanics represent 9.9 percent of the active-duty enlisted force and 4.7 percent of the active-duty officer corps. In the reserve components, Hispanics make up 9.1 percent of enlisted service members and 4.3 percent of officers.
In contrast, Hispanics make up 16 percent of the 18-to-24-year-olds in the U.S. population.
Chu said Hispanic representation isn't shared equally by the military services. The Marine Corps is doing the best job of attracting Hispanics, he said, with Hispanics making up 14.5 percent of its enlisted force and 6.4 percent of its officer corps. The Army follows closely behind, trailed by the Navy. But with Hispanics making up just 6 percent of its enlisted force and 3.6 percent of its officers, the Air Force faces "the biggest challenge," Chu said. Hispanics make up 6.2 percent of DoD's civil service work force, officials reported.
Chu said DoD is working with several Hispanic organizations to help overcome roadblocks in attracting Hispanics into military and civilian jobs in the department. One problem, he said, is that the Hispanic community doesn't tend to put as much emphasis as some other groups on finishing high school -- a virtual prerequisite to enlisting in the military.
Chu said the military's requirement that enlistees receive a high school diploma "isn't about smarts," but rather, provides an indicator of the person's ability to function in a structured environment.
Similarly, Chu said, Hispanics are less likely than some other groups to go on to college, possibly because they don't know about programs such as ROTC available to help them. Because all military officers must have a four-year degree under their belt, Chu said this means fewer Hispanics qualify to earn commissions.
At the same time, Chu said, Hispanic youth are facing the same phenomenon he said young people in other cultural groups are experiencing: their parents, teachers and other role models aren't necessarily supporting their interest in military service.
In response, the Defense Department is using a far-reaching strategy to attract Hispanics, from partnering with Hispanic groups to running ads directed at young people as well as adults in a position to influence their decisions, to sponsoring stay-in-school campaigns directed at Hispanic youth.
For the first time this year, DoD and all the military services participated in the League of United Latin American Citizen's annual training conference and convention, held in July in San Antonio.
During the session, DoD entered into a memorandum of understanding with the league supporting efforts to recruit and employ more Hispanics, showcased Hispanic military heroes from the past as well as on the battlefield today in Afghanistan and Iraq, and sponsored a career fair luncheon.
"It was clear that they were very appreciative of this outreach," Chu said.
DoD officials met again last week with League of United Latin American Citizens members to reaffirm the relationship.
In addition, the Army has an extensive stay-in-school outreach campaign, Operation Graduation, run in partnership with the Ad Council, that features funny and poignant television and radio spots in both English and Spanish.
The Army also has a "You Soy El Army" advertising campaign, the Spanish- language counterpart to the "Army of One" program, which airs nationally on the Univision and Telemundo cable networks as well as on radio stations in key Hispanic markets.
The services also are turning to the Internet to reach the Hispanic community. In addition to a Spanish version of its Web site, the Army has five bilingual "cyber recruiters" available to address specific questions in their online chat room. The Navy also has a Spanish version of its Web site.
Chu said he's optimistic that these and other initiatives will have a positive impact on recruiting efforts by sending a clear message to recruitment-age Hispanics and their role models about opportunities for them in DoD.
"We must appeal to the full cross-section of young Americans with sufficient encouragement so they are interested in considering a tour of military duty or perhaps a career," he said.