MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. --
The Marine Corps Recruiting Command continues to answer the call from Gen. James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, to build a Marine Corps that reflects “the face of the nation.” Over the course of the past fiscal year, MCRC has recruited its most diverse group of officers in a decade.
“In order to stay relevant with society, the Marine Corps has to look like society,” said Lt. Col. Chester McMillon, head of officer programs, MCRC. “It is especially important among officers in order to maintain credibility with our much more diverse group of enlisted Marines.”
The command began the fiscal year with a mission to access 1,650 second lieutenants. In the end, 1,663 of the nations best and brightest reported on active duty, ready to endure six months of intense training at The Basic School here. Of those 1,663 new officers accessed, 85 were African-American, 122 Hispanic and 99 of other ethnic background.
“We increased diversity of this year’s candidate pool in all of our commissioning programs,” said McMillon.
In comparison to FY10 officer accessions among African-Americans, the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps saw an increase of seven, Officer Candidate Course and the Platoon Leaders Courses saw increases of eight and enlisted to officer programs and the United States Naval Academy each saw an increase of one.
Though the results were especially evident this fiscal year, the officer accession process is often times a four year initiative as potential officers work towards completing their college degrees.
“The hard work that our officer selection officers put in four years ago is starting to pay off now as this year’s group of officers graduate from college,” said Capt. Joseph Wydeven, diversity officer, MCRC. “They accomplished this by constantly looking for qualified individuals.”
“A lot of our numbers are the result of the work our OSOs are doing,” said McMillon.
One hurdle MCRC faces as it looks for individuals who have what it takes to lead Marines is getting a foot in the door in diverse communities across the country. To combat this problem, MCRC has used a new initiative, the All Community Approach, to reach out to key influencers as well as potential applicants. The All Community Approach, developed by former MCRC commanding general and current commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, Maj. Gen. Ronald L. Bailey, seeks to improve connectedness at the tactical level so recruiting station commanding officers and OSOs have greater access to community influencers and leaders who are best positioned to assist them in their engagement efforts.
“We need to keep a focus on the All Community Approach as we build new relationships and enhance existing ones with various diverse communities,” said Wydeven. “We need to educate people on the opportunities available in the Marine Corps.”
The Marine Corps has employed this approach this fiscal year at events like the CIAA Basketball Tournament and Marine Week St. Louis. The approach will be used again during the Bayou Classic football game in November.
The Bayou Classic is an annual football game between Grambling State and Southern Universities. Held each year in New Orleans, the game is considered the best known rivalry among historically black colleges and universities.
“The All Community Approach will allow us to continue to build a more diverse Marine Corps as we create and reestablish relationships with diverse communities,” said McMillon.
Despite steps in the right direction, MCRC will continue its efforts to build a more diverse Marine Corps.
We can’t rest, we have to stay active,” said McMillon.
One way this will be accomplished is by raising awareness of scholarships the Marine Corps offers to qualified men and women. One scholarship in particular that will be given a boost is the Frederick C. Branch Leadership Scholarship. The Branch Scholarship, named after the first African-American Marine officer, is a Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps scholarship available to eligible students, regardless of ethnic background, who attend one of 17 historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) participating in the program. Some of the schools included are Clark Atlanta, Howard, Hampton, Texas Southern, Tuskegee and Xavier universities.
“We are going to send out information about the Branch Scholarship to students without scholarships who currently attend NROTC,” said McMillon. “The two and three year scholarships are being underutilized. “
In addition to the Branch Scholarship, efforts were made to increase the awareness of regular NROTC scholarships available. Using a direct mail program, MCRC was able to send NROTC scholarship material to African-American students who scored well enough on the ACT and SAT standardized tests to be Marine officers. According to Capt. Frederick Evert, lead generation officer, MCRC, the direct mail program resulted in 21 NROTC scholarships being awarded to qualified African-American students.
During this past fiscal year, MCRC also sought to identify a sustainable percentage to aspire to when it came to recruiting qualified men and women from diverse backgrounds.
“We looked at factors such as population size of different ethnic groups, the percentage of individuals with college degrees and graduation rates to arrive at a realistically sustainable goal,” said Wydeven. “By examining these factors and seeing how many people are actually qualified to be Marines, we have an idea of what our reasonable expectations are for accessing a diverse group of officers.”
Building on the progress of this past fiscal year, MCRC will continue its steadfast efforts to build a Corps representative of the country it defends. If you are interested in becoming a Marine officer, contact your local officer selection officer, visit www.MarineOfficer.com or call 1-800-MARINES.