CHARLOTTE, N.C. --
Officers and enlisted Marines from Recruiting Station Columbia attended the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Tournament Week in Charlotte, N.C. that began Feb 28 and ran through the week.
Over the past ten years, the Marine Corps has participated in CIAA events, but this year saw maximum participation in an effort to increase awareness within the African-American community.
“It was beneficial to have the magnitude and diversity of Marines there to put a face on the Marine Corps and our brand,” said Capt. Patrick McDonough, officer selection officer for R.S. Columbia.
During an African American expo that took place during the week a Marine booth invited young men and women to consider service in the Corps. Later in the week, the Marines met with attendees at the Center of Influence luncheon and build awareness about the service.
“I feel like the luncheon was one of the best events of the week,” McDonough said. “The feedback was very similar to an Educators’ Workshop. A lot of people just kept coming up to me and telling me how they never knew everything the Marine Corps has to offer.”
The luncheon concluded with presentations from Maj. Gen. Ronald L. Bailey, commanding general of Marine Corps Recruiting Command as well as Brig. Gen. Frederick M. Padilla, Commanding General of the Eastern Recruiting Region.
“When you get someone like Gen. Bailey, who is so dynamic, it grabs people’s attention and spreads the word,” McDonough said. “This year, one of the biggest challenges was explaining the magnitude of the luncheon to community influencers, but after this year, I think it will be a lot easier.”
Capt. Richard I. Gough, OSO for Columbia, S.C., said the event’s impact will be felt later down the line.
“It won’t be an immediate effect, but it will certainly be a building block and a stepping stone toward our goal,” Gough said.
Although the goal of attending the tournament week was to build a more diverse Officer Corps, recruiters used the opportunity to visit high schools in the area to speak with educators and students about career opportunities available to qualified applicants.
“I feel like we were certainly prepared going into this event,” Gough said. “We knew exactly what we were getting ourselves into and executed it properly.”
Preparation for the event began 45 days prior to the tournament with recruiters contacting influencers throughout the region. Gough said the hard work paid off, as nearly 100 educators, coaches and minority leaders spoke with Marines about opportunities for their communities.