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Cragin Asks Military, Civilians to Improve Race Relations

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2001 – DoD has made great strides in equal opportunity, but the journey has not ended, Charles L. Cragin told the standing room only crowd in the Pentagon auditorium during DoD's African American History Month observance, Feb. 8.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Charles L. Cragin poses with sixth grader, 11-year-old Anthony Griffin of Washington's John Tyler Elementary School who read his award-winning African American History Month essay. At left is the keynote speaker, Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Clifford L. Stanley. At right is Gail H. McGinn, acting assistant secretary of defense for force management policy. Photo by Rudi Williams
  

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

He challenged the large multiracial audience "to re-double your efforts to mentor and guide someone in your duty section or work center because DoD can't achieve its equal opportunity goals with policies alone.

"I encourage you to make time in your already full schedules to dedicate attention to teaching and coaching someone who may or may not look just like you," said Cragin, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness and acting assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs. "And just imagine, if we can get everyone in the federal sector to do this, the results of our efforts will reap benefits tenfold for neighborhoods, communities, the government and America."

Hosting the annual Pentagon observance on behalf of the new secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, Cragin quoted the secretary as saying military and civilian personnel bear a special responsibility during such occasions. Calling them sentinels of the past and scouts for the future, Rumsfeld said the current leadership inherited an institution that has been a pioneer for equal opportunity for more than a half century.

"Today," Cragin quoted Rumsfeld, "DoD is a beacon to America as the most integrated institution in the nation.

"Because we're an example to others, each of us also has a responsibility to each other -- to ensure that our military and civilian ranks are defined by adherence to the highest standards of equal justice and professional ethics," he said. "In so doing, we can build an even stronger military and an even stronger nation."

Rumsfeld's message encourages everyone in DoD to embrace the spirit of African American History Month. "Together, we can remain a model for the nation," Rumsfeld said in his message. "Together, we can make the meaning and lessons of this month real, not only for African Americans, but for all Americans."

Quoting from President Bush's African American History Month proclamation, Cragin said the observance "is a time to teach our children, and all Americans, to rise above brutality and bigotry and to be champions of liberty, human dignity and equality."

Cragin said DoD can celebrate tremendous progress in equal opportunity since President Truman's signing of Executive Order 9981 integrating the armed forces.

"Today, few, if any, companies can boast of having as many African Americans in supervisory positions as the U.S. military," Cragin noted. "We're arguably one of the most racially and ethnically integrated institutions in America."

He said the results of the November 1999 DoD Armed Forces Equal Opportunity Survey affirmed that:  

  • Large majorities of service members in all groups believe that racial and ethnic relations today are as good or better than they were five years ago. 

     

  • Service members perceived more improvement in racial and ethnic relations in the military than in civilian society. 

     

  • Relatively small percentages of service members in each racial and ethnic group said they experienced an incident of harassment or discrimination related to the military personnel life cycle.

Although DoD can take some solace in its progress in equal opportunity as compared to civilian society, the November 1999 Career Progression of Minority and Women Officers study made it clear that DoD hasn't crossed the finish line, Cragin noted.

In fact, he said, "we may never cross the finish line because of the varied experiences and perceptions stemming from a person's racial or ethnic background."

The study pointed out that:  

  • Women and minorities tend to be concentrated in administrative and supply areas and underrepresented in tactical operations, the area that yields two-thirds of the general and flag officers of the services. Women and minorities are very much underrepresented in some fields such as aviation, although the trend is upwards. 

     

  • Factors contributing to the different promotion rates for minorities and women are education, precommissioning preparation, initial assignments contributing to a "slow start," and limited access to peer and mentor networks. 

     

  • Some minority and female members believe they are held to a higher standard. 

     

  • Officers who felt they had been discriminated against generally believed that an individual rather than the military institution committed the act.

Quoting the defense human goals charter, Cragin said, "In all that we do, we must show respect for the serviceman, servicewoman, civilian employee and family members, recognizing their individual needs, aspirations and capabilities.

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