Marines representing Marine Corps Recruiting Command attended the Black Engineer of the Year Awards Conference at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia Feb. 16-18 in order to advance the Corps’ efforts to educate key publics about its core values and present opportunities to prospects who possess the aspiration and determination to lead Marines.
The recruiting command’s engagement of communities at events, such as BEYA, is intended to facilitate the generation and sustainment of a force that has the cultural expertise, language skill sets and a variety of strategic philosophies necessary to meet the operational requirements of the Marine Corps.
“I think it’s imperative for undergraduates and graduates to understand the importance of becoming a leader of Marines,” stated Captain Colin Graham, officer selection officer, Officer Selection Station Philadelphia. “We’re here to provide information and to explain the benefits to college students and the community. BEYA is a great avenue to do that. We’re always looking for the best and the brightest to lead the next generation of Marines, and they can come from anywhere, not just a certain geographic location or people group.”
Master Gunnery Sgt. Janel Spencer, Manpower and Reserve Affairs, agrees with Graham and attended the conference to assist in finding the Corps’ future leaders.
“It’s just about being provided an opportunity. The next generation of leaders really can come from anywhere,” said Spencer, a native of Philadelphia who has served for 26 years in the Corps and volunteered to be at the conference. “Just because you grew up in the projects doesn’t mean you have to stay there. That’s just where your family happened to be at that time. You can always overcome hardships if you’re given the opportunity, and I’m living proof of that.”
Brigadier Gen. Joseph L. Osterman, MCRC’s commanding general, was present for the event and emphasized his goals during the weekend.
“The importance of our involvement in the Black Engineer of the Year Awards conference is to educate students, instructors and all of the influencers in these young people’s lives,” Brig. Gen. Osterman said.
Part of the event was a mentorship seminar where senior level military officers and civilian government employees sat down and spoke with juniors and seniors from local high schools. They encouraged the students to explore career options in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Brigadier Gen. Osterman, who took part in the seminar, said he was excited to positively impact the students’ lives.
“I’m very glad just to be here, and I’m impressed with the caliber of students in attendance. I think the mentorship we were able to provide has been very well-received,” he stated.
The conference also held several other significant events such as the Modern Day Technology Leadership Luncheon, which honored leadership in times of great industrial change, and a Career Fair Expo, which linked qualified engineers, scientists, business professionals and students with regional and national employers.
On Friday, the Marine Corps hosted the 7th Annual Stars & Stripes Dinner. General James F. Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, was the evening’s keynote speaker. His speech highlighted the importance of diversity within the Marine Corps and he praised the accomplishment of the Montford Point Marines who were the first black Marines in the Corps. These Marines trained at Montford Point Camp in Jacksonville, N.C., and began serving in 1942 under the direction of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In a segregated Corps, they persevered and proved themselves in the Pacific theater of battle.
General Amos spoke of his admiration for the Marine Corps’ 18th Commandant, General Alexander A. Vandegrift, who pushed to desegregate the Corps.
“Alexander Vandegrift had the courage as our new commandant to say ‘The experiment is over. They're all Marines. Close down Montford Point,’” said Gen. Amos.
In 1949, Montford Point closed and Marines began serving shoulder to shoulder regardless of race. On Nov. 23, 2011, President Barack Obama signed a bill to award the Montford Point Marines with the Congressional Gold Medal, which will be presented sometime this spring.
Sergeant Maj. Micheal P. Barrett, the 17th sergeant major of the Marine Corps, commented on the achievement.
“The background skills and talent they provided in the beginning served to strengthen our Corps. The celebration this spring can’t come quick enough,” he said.
As a whole, this year’s BEYA conference provided a prime opportunity for Marine Corps Recruiting Command to engage influencers regarding a diverse Marine Corps.
In the coming months, the command will take part in several diversity initiatives, including the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament in Charlotte, N.C., the National Society of Black Engineers 38th Annual Convention in Pittsburgh at the end of March and the Black Coaches Association in Orlando in late May.