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Service Personnel Chiefs Discuss Diversity in the Military

Dec. 10, 2019 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

The House Armed Services Committee's military personnel subcommittee heard testimony today from Defense Department personnel chiefs on diversity in recruiting and retention.

Testifying were: Army Lt. Gen. Thomas C. Seamands, deputy chief of staff for personnel; Navy Vice Adm. John B. Nowell Jr., chief of naval personnel; Air Force Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services; and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael A. Rocco, deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs.

Army Diversity Efforts

"People are the starting point for all that we do. Today, the total Army is more diverse — the most talented and the most lethal force in our nation's history," said Seamands.

An important tool the Army has is the new talent management system, which amplifies diversity, he said.

Trends are pointed in the right direction, he noted. For example, in the last five years, the percentage of Hispanic soldiers went from 12.5% to 14.6% and female representation went from 16.6% to 18.8%.

Soldiers do pushups while others stand around.
Plank Position
Army recruits participate in physical training at the National Guard Training Center in Sea Girt, N.J., Oct. 19, 2019.
Photo By: Army Master Sgt. Matt Hecht
VIRIN: 191019-Z-NI803-0373C

Also, the first female graduate of Ranger School went on to become the first female infantry company commander, and she then deployed to Afghanistan.

"We want our Army to look like our nation and to reflect what's best of our citizens," he said. "As the country has become more diverse, so has the Army."

He added that service members are  not only diverse in race and gender, but they're also diverse in thought, talent, knowledge, skills and experience.

Navy Diversity Efforts

The Navy is promoting diversity and inclusion, said Nowell. "We have increased participation in diverse talent and outreach events and marketing materials."

Nineteen percent of the recruiting media budget focuses on multicultural and female prospects, he said. Navy ROTC scholarships are also offered to minorities, he said. 

A sailor walks down the middle of two lanes of navy recruits facing each other.
Recruit Briefing
Navy Chief Petty Officer Omar Aleman briefs new recruits at Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Ill., Dec. 17, 2018.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Camilo Fernan
VIRIN: 181217-N-BM202-1049C

More than 25% of this year's U.S. Naval Academy accessions were female or minority, he said.

Air Force Diversity Efforts

"The Air Force considers diversity a warfighting imperative," said Kelly. "As such, the Air Force set a goal for our force to mirror and be representative of the population of Americans eligible to serve by race, gender and ethnicity."

An airman crosses a rope that is over water while other airmen watch.
Water Crossing
A basic cadet crosses a rope obstacle during training at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., July 23, 2019.
Photo By: Trevor Cokley, Air Force
VIRIN: 190723-F-XS730-0006C

The Air Force currently consists of 22% women; 15% African Americans — including 6% in the officer corps; and 13% Hispanics — including 7% in the officer corps. Those demographics have increased over the last 10 years, he added.

Marine Corps Diversity Efforts

"Diversity remains critical to the Marine Corps," said Rocco. "It is our responsibility to ensure the Marine Corps is comprised of the best and brightest from every segment of the diverse society.

"Diversity must be included in meaningful ways in order to take advantage of a wide array of aptitudes and perspectives necessary to maintain our current and future warfighting excellence," he continued.

A Marine Corps recruit climbs a rope.
Crucible Climb
A Marine Corps recruit climbs up a rope during the final challenge of recruit training, known as the Crucible, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., Feb. 21, 2019.
Photo By: Marine Corps Warrant Officer Bobby J. Yarbrough
VIRIN: 190222-M-DE426-138C

Diversity in the Marine Corps is increasing, he said. In 2010, 30% of Marines identified as minorities. Today, that number is more than 40%. "We expect these numbers to continue to rise."

In 2010, 6.7% of the Marine Corps was female. It's now almost 9%. These numbers should also continue to rise, he said.