SAN ANTONIO --
Thirty years of striving to diversify and enrich the ranks of the sea services were honored and built upon when the Association of Naval Service Officers hosted their annual conference in the “Heart of Texas,” May 2 through 6.
Prominent leaders from across the sea services spoke at the conference and included Juan M. Garcia III, assistant secretary of the Navy, Navy Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, and Coast Guard Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr., commandant of the Coast Guard.
Diversity was the motivation for the founding of ANSO and has served as the guiding goal since its inception in 1981. The original goal was to increase the representation of Hispanics in the sea services and specifically the officer ranks, but ANSO has diversified this interest and expanded it to all minorities, according to Navy Cmdr. Mery-Angela Katson, national ANSO president and the Navy Diversity Directorate.
The emphasis on Hispanic representation in the sea services comes from the thought that by 2025 Hispanics will make up 25 percent of the United States’ population, said Katson.
“We have the responsibility to make our services reflect the face of our country,” said Marine Brig. Gen. Fredrick M. Padilla, commanding general of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and Eastern Recruiting Region.
It is important to increase opportunities for Hispanics, because those that are recruited today will be the leaders in 2025, Padilla said.
“There are plenty of qualified candidates out there; we just need to reach out to them,” said Papp.
Monica Emerson, Navy Diversity Officer, Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Department of the Navy, echoed Papp by elaborating that minority groups “lag behind because of access to opportunity.”
There needs to be greater emphasis on impacting communities before they reach high school and “to teach those who’ve yet to raise their hands and say I solemnly swear,” said Marine Maj. Gen. Angela Salinas, director of Manpower Management Division, Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Headquarters Marine Corps.
The Marine Corps Recruiting Command has already begun to initiate a new program called the “All Community Approach” which seeks to increase the ability for the Marine Corps to engage communities in discussions beyond recruiting. Efforts were initiated in March for the Eastern Recruiting Command and will be conducted during Marine Week in St. Louis next month for Western Recruiting Region.
It is important to choose individuals for positions based upon talent, but it is ideal to have a talent pool reflecting the nation to draw from, Padilla said. Even if those who are impacted by this mentorship decide not to enter the military, the country still benefits. These individuals now have a commitment to education which is fundamental to success.
Historically, the middle class Hispanic community was built upon “earning access to education through service,” said Garcia.
Culturally, the Hispanic community is extremely proud of their military members and it is just a matter of reaching into those communities to guide them, Katson said.
But, “quality recruiting and outreach projects are just the beginning,” Papp said.
Recruiting isn’t the end point. Once they are in the service they need to be mentored by senior enlisted and officers. The true goal is retention, Padilla said.
The importance of diversity was emphasized as a matter of national security by all of the speakers at the ANSO conference.
To illustrate this importance, Garcia told the audience that the first female nuclear submariners were in the process of completing their training and would be reporting to their units in November and December. It was important for the Navy to open itself to this option in order for it to remain competitive against the civilian world and not limit its available workforce, he said.
“If you don’t go after the whole nation, then you are going to war without the strength of the nation,” said Marine Maj. Gen. Ronald Bailey, commanding general of Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Western Recruiting Region and Marine Corps Recruiting Command.
Roughead, echoed this sentiment and added that the world is changing and “we, as a Navy, must take heed of these changes.”
The 2012 conference will be held in San Diego, Calif. To keep up to date on ANSO, visit their website at http://www.ansomil.org.