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Air Force Makes Clean Sweep of Top NAACP Awards

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 11, 2004 – The Air Force made a clean sweep of the top two NAACP awards, plus a special award, for outstanding and noteworthy efforts in implementing policies and programs which promote equal opportunity in the military.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Jimmy Love poses with Charles S. Abell, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, after Abell presented him a special coin during a pre-dinner ceremony for the presentation of the Roy Wilkins Renown Service Awards. Love later received the Benjamin L. Hooks Distinguished Service Award. He's DoD's acting director for military equal opportunity. Photo by Rudi Williams
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Air Force Secretary James G. Roche garnered the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's highest award to a Defense Department civilian, the Benjamin L. Hooks Distinguished Service Award.

This year marks the first time since the Hooks awards was established in 1990 that a second presentation was made. The second award went to retired Air Force Lt. Col. Jimmy Love, acting director for military equal opportunity, Office of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Equal Opportunity.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr. was honored with the top annual award for a military person, the NAACP Meritorious Service Award.

The three awards were presented during the 29th Annual NAACP Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Awards Dinner on June 10 at the Crystal City Hyatt Regency Hotel in Arlington, Va.

Kweisi Mfume, the NAACP's president and chief executive officer, presented the Benjamin L. Hooks Distinguished Service Award. Roche was unable to attend because of his involvement with events honoring former President Ronald Reagan. Michael Dominguez, assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower and reserve affairs, accepted the award in Roche's behalf.

Mfume said the NAACP presents the Hooks award annually to a member of the Defense Department serving in a policy-making position for efforts in implementing policies and program promoting equal opportunity.

In his role as secretary of the Air Force, Mfume said, Roche has advocated on behalf of equal opportunity and diversity in shaping Air Force programs.

"He has expanded junior reserve officer training programs for over 900 high schools throughout the U.S. and abroad, emphasizing math, science and citizenship," Mfume noted. "He has a passion for reaching out to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, minority institutions and in particular, 'at- risk youths' to raise the awareness of career opportunities in the military and civil service."

Calling Hooks a member of the "greatest generation," Dominguez said Hooks fought for justice around the world even when it was lacking at home.

"Through his efforts, and many other great Americans, we've learned the true strength of our nation is our diversity," Dominguez said. "Just as this diversity strengthens our country, so does it also strengthen our service. Today's Air Force reflects the great diversity of our nation. In the Air Force, we value the diversity of thought, education, culture, gender, creativity and problem-solving skills."

Diversity is valued for the wealth of the insight, perspective and skill it provides the Air Force, while enabling it to remain a unified force that achieves common goals and objectives, he noted. "Fundamentally, our focus on diversity is about achieving mission excellence and sustaining air and space dominance we enjoy today," Dominguez.

"Our airmen are serving in many areas crippled by ethnic hatred," he noted. "When these populations see a diverse force that empowers all of its members, they capture a glimpse of what they can become.

"When new threats to our security emerge, the innovation, creativity and perspective that our multicultural diverse for engenders ensures that we're ready for these challenges," Dominguez said.

Love said he was surprised to receive the award, because "I've only done what I think we all do, and that's my job! And, I love doing it. I'm humbled because of the company of people who have received this award before me."

Love said, over the years, he had heard several acceptance speeches, "but what I remember most, are two words 'thank you.'"

Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP's national board of directors, presented Rice's award to him. Bond said Rice was cited for distinguished service as commander of Air Force Recruiting Service at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, from May 2002 to January 2004. He's now the chief of staff for the Office of the Representative and Executive Director for the Coalition Provisional Authority, Office of the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon.

Bond said Rice has several accomplishments to his credit. He graduated from the Air Force Academy with honors in 1978; he has acquired two master's degrees: one in aeronautical science and another in national security. He's a command pilot with more than 3,800 flying hours, primarily in bomber aircraft.

"His most notable accomplishments related to the award come from his duty as commander of Air Force Recruiting Service," Bond noted. "Recognizing the importance of a military force composed of people from all facets of the American population, General Rice emphasized diversity. He exceeded minority targets for officer recruiting (and) doubled the number of Hispanics. He exceeded the original Air Force target of 12 percent African-American enlistments.

"His efforts on minority recruiting placed the Air Force in a position to reflect the strength of America's diverse society for years and years to come," Bond said.

Bond quoted Rice as saying, "Attracting qualified minorities is an important part of our recruiting game, because we are a reflection of the society we defend."

Rice took the podium to resounding applause and told the audience that when he served in the White House under former President Bill Clinton, something the president said has stuck with him and molded his thinking ever since.

He quoted Clinton as saying, "It's not enough to believe in your heart that you're unbiased, unprejudiced and without racism. If you really want to make a change, if you really want to make a difference, you've got to be intentional about your actions and what you do."

Rice went on to say that when he became commander of Air Force Recruiting Service, he said he did so remembering the words of the Air Force secretary and chief of staff, who said, "We want to build an Air Force that's a reflection of the society that we serve."

"As we looked at what we were doing to recruit people into our Air Force, we determined that in many cases, while in our hearts, we weren't doing anything negative," Rice said. "We were accepting what we got. We determined 2,000 members of Air Force Recruiting Service that that wasn't good enough." He said they decided that they were going to be "intentional about building an Air Force that's a reflection of the society we serve. While we didn't make every mark we set out for ourselves, we did make a significant difference in many areas. When you are intentional about your actions, it's amazing sometimes what you can do."

Rice said he was accepting the award on behalf of the more than 2,000 members of Air Force Recruiting Service who are the ones who did the work that resulted in him receiving the award.

Biographies:
Air Force Secretary James G. Roche
Brig. Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr., Former Commander, Air Force Recruiting Service

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Related Sites:
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
Office of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Equal Opportunity
Office of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Equal Opportunity
Air Force Recruiting Service

Click photo for screen-resolution imageBrig. Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr. said the Air Force is "intentional about building an Air Force that's a reflection of the society we serve." His comment came after he received the NAACP's Meritorious Service Award during the organization's 29th Annual Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Awards Dinner at the Crystal City Hyatt Regency Hotel in Arlington, Va., June 10. In the background is Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP's national board of directors. Photo by Rudi Williams  
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