“Maintaining diversity within our ranks infuses our Corps with a continuous stream of fresh ideas and innovative capabilities.”
Those were the words from the 34th Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James T. Conway.
Statistics provided by the Defense Department show that minorities are overrepresented in the enlisted ranks and underrepresented in the officer ranks. The Marine Corps’ recruiting efforts have been geared toward creating an equal balance on both enlisted and officer sides of the Corps.
“Diversity is an important part of the Officer Corps in the United States Marine Corps due to the fact that we represent America and we need to be representative of all races and ethnicities that make up America,” said Capt. James Byrne, an officer selection officer with Recruiting Station Raleigh. “Also, our diversity brings with it the ability to bring together a group of people that have different skill sets, different upbringings and different experiences and put that to work in the Marine Corps.”
Byrne’s strategy for diversity recruiting includes reaching out to a wide array of students at all colleges and universities in his area. He explains to institutions of higher learning that he can help them achieve a higher graduation rate for African American and diversity students by exposing students and administrators to the benefits of the Platoon Leaders Class in order to help these students graduate from college.
Another resource Byrne has used is senior leadership. On two occasions, he invited Marine generals to be guest speakers for the graduating class of two historically African American colleges.
“Having Marine generals come to my schools has been important, because generals carry with them a certain amount of prestige and a level of accomplishment that is easy to understand and aspire too,” said Byrne. “At the same time, school administrators can easily relate to a general, because of their own leadership challenges at their institutions, and it shows these administrators that the Marine Corps is serious about investing into their institution.”
One of the guest speakers was Maj. Gen. Ronald L. Bailey, the commanding general of Marine Corps Recruiting Command. He spoke in front of hundreds of graduating college students about what to expect after college and how to overcome the obstacles life may have for them.
Byrne’s goal is to find the most qualified individuals that he believes will be successful Marine Corps Officers. Additionally, he focuses on diversity recruiting.
“I have been very successful at casting a wide net at schools that were previously not being worked,” Byrne said. “Also, I have built a solid relationship with school administrators at schools that share our mission to recruit the most qualified diversity students.”