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Press Secretary Smites Host That Dissed Diversity in U.S. Military

March 11, 2021 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

The United States military is the greatest the world has ever seen because of its diversity, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said during a news briefing this morning.

Women cadets stand on the steps of a building at West Point, N.Y.
Graduating Class
Thirty-eight African American women graduates in the Class of 2020 pose for a historic photo at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y., June 13, 2020. It was the largest class of African American women in one graduation class.
Photo By: Army Sgt. 1st Class Josephine Pride
VIRIN: 200612-A-SJ461-0052

Kirby addressed this because a cable show host used his show to denigrate the contributions of women in the military and to say the Chinese military is catching up to the U.S. military because it does not allow women to serve in the percentage the United States does.

Kirby addressed the insults to the entire U.S. military straight on. "I want to be very clear right up front, that the diversity of our military is one of our greatest strengths," he said. "I've seen it for myself in long months at sea and in the combat waged by our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. I've seen it up on Capitol Hill just this past month. And I see it every day here right at the Pentagon."

Women in uniform who hold a range of jobs in the Air Force stand in line.
Women's Day Pose
A group of women assigned to the 60th Air Mobility Wing pose for a photo ahead of International Women’s Day at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., Feb. 26, 2021.
Photo By: Chustine Minoda, Air Force
VIRIN: 210226-F-FM924-1119

Kirby shared a personal note. "One of the best decisions I ever made was becoming a Navy spouse myself, married to a terrific young naval officer who gave birth to our first child, and then went right back to work doing civil engineering for an air force base in Jacksonville," he said. 

Kirby reiterated Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III's assertion that the American military works best when it represents all the American people. This is more than just having token minorities but having "the moral courage to include other perspectives and ideas into our decision making — perspectives that as the secretary himself noted Monday, are based on lived experience," Kirby said. "It's that experience and the professionalism and commitment of our people that has always been our decisive advantage."

An Airman meets a four-star general.
Warm Welcome
Air Force Maj. Spencer Reed, commander of the 352nd Special Warfare Training Squadron, welcomes Air Mobility Command commander Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost to the Benini Heritage Center at Pope Army Airfield, N.C. in December 2020. Van Ovost has been nominated to lead the U.S. Transportation Command.
Photo By: Air Force MSgt. Katherine Novales
VIRIN: 201203-F-QB093-1001C

No job in the military is barred to women, the press secretary noted. They fly jets, fight in infantry squads, drive tanks, command warships and soon to lead combatant commands — President Joe Biden has nominated Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost to command U.S. Transportation Command and Army Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson to command U.S. Southern Command. 

"To be sure, we still have a lot of work to do to make our military more inclusive, more respectful of everyone, especially women," Kirby said. 

There is a lack of women at senior ranks, Kirby said. "We pledge to do better, and we will," he said. "What we absolutely won't do is take personnel advice from a talk show host or the Chinese military. Maybe those folks feel like they have something to prove — that's on them. We know we're the greatest military in the world today and even for all the things we need to improve, we know exactly why that's so."