In the 2010 Commandant’s Planning Guidance, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen James F. Amos, directed the Marine Corps to improve diversity representation throughout the Corps.1 Since laying this foundation, Marine Corps Recruiting Command (MCRC) has increased its efforts to recruit quality minority officers. This objective was reinforced during the MCRC National Commander’s Conference on 18 October 2011. The African-American population has become the focus of effort for MCRC to increase minority officers in the Corps. Flagship programs such as the All Community Approach and the Frederick C. Branch Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) Scholarship have been elevated to the forefront of MCRC in order to entice young African-Americans to seek the Marine Corps as a suitable pathway to service and success.2 Based on current trends in population growth, particularly the growth of the Hispanic population over the next 40 years, the Marine Corps must shift the focus from recruiting African-American officers to recruiting Hispanic officers if it truly wishes to meet the goal of creating a diverse organization that represents the population it serves.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Hispanic population is expected to grow to 23 percent of the total population by 2050, surpassing the African-American population, which is expected to grow to 16 percent of the total population in the same period.3 The question then is, why are we placing a greater emphasis on accessing African-American officers rather than Hispanic officers? Evidence of this is represented by the fact that four additional African-American officer selection officers (OSOs) were added to the total number of OSOs in MCRC, while only a single Hispanic officer was added.4 Additionally, the Frederick C. Branch NROTC Scholarship, while not exclusively limited to African-Americans, is specifically targeted to African-Americans planning to attend historically black colleges and universities, while no comparable scholarship for Hispanics exists. I can only speculate as to the reasons the Marine Corps has chosen to emphasize the accession of African-American officers over Hispanic officers, as my position within MCRC does not allow me access to the policy considerations driving the Marine Corps’ diversity recruiting effort. I suspect that the Marine Corps diversity recruiting policy is heavily influenced by extensive lobbying efforts and intense political pressure from interested parties at the Department of Defense and national levels, which in turn force themselves down to the Department of the Navy and Marine Corps.
Despite the current emphasis on minority recruiting in the African-American market, shifting the Marine Corps’ emphasis on minority officer accessions from African-American officers to Hispanic officers now, rather than 40 years down the road, makes good business sense and would show the American public that the Marine Corps is truly serious about having an officer corps that appropriately reflects the demographics of the Nation. First and foremost, having a visionary plan for diversity officer accessions would allow the Marine Corps to stay ahead of the demographic shift instead of playing catch up years from now. This is a long-term plan that would give the Marine Corps 4 decades to grow, refine, and execute, rather than scramble to come up with an adequate solution when dictated by future versions of the Military Leadership Diversity Commission. Second, it would put the Marine Corps at the forefront of other Services in their diversity officer accession programs and would likely cause all Services to reexamine their current plans for diversity officer growth. Finally, the time has never been better for accessing Hispanic officers. Polls suggest that Hispanic men show the highest propensity to serve in the military out of all demographic groups surveyed.5 Yearly review and adjustment of officer accession missions to keep up with current growth in the Hispanic population would ensure a representative number of Hispanic officers are accessed into the Marine Corps every year.
In order to address Hispanic officer accessions in the Marine Corps, I suggest considering the following items for implementation into the broader scope of officer diversity:
• Increase the number of Hispanic OSOs proportional to the number of qualified Hispanics in the United States. Place these OSOs in key locations of high Hispanic populations, such as California, Texas, and Florida. These OSOs will have higher Hispanic diversity accession goals than OSOs who have struggled to obtain the required number of Hispanic officer accessions due to the nature of their assigned area’s demographics.
• Create an NROTC scholarship comparable to the Frederick C. Branch NROTC Scholarship. Applicants for the Frederick C. Branch NROTC Scholarship are interviewed and processed at the recruiting station level with final selection approval being made at MCRC. I recommend the same construct for the Hispanic NROTC scholarship, although restricting participation, at least initially, as a pilot program with recruiting stations whose areas of operation encompass large populations of Hispanics. Place scholarship recipients in universities that have a traditionally large Hispanic undergraduate student body in order to attract other qualified Hispanics into the program. I suggest the scholarship be named after a prominent Hispanic-American Marine officer, such as 1stLt Baldomero Lopez, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in 1950 during the Battle of Inchon.
• Expand the Marine Corps’ partnerships with key Hispanic organizations, such as the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda and the Association of Naval Service Officers (ANSO). Use these organizations to build relationships in the civilian Hispanic community. A partnership with civilian Hispanic organizations can provide legitimacy to the Marine Corps in Hispanic communities, create understanding of the mission of the Marine Corps, and present the Marine Corps as a viable option for success and achieving the American dream. A key point of emphasis for the partnered organizations is the accelerated path to U.S. citizenship for Marines and their dependents who are not U.S. citizens.6 Partnering with organizations that represent Hispanics already serving in the Marine Corps, such as ANSO, allows the Marine Corps to continue the commitment to retention of qualified Hispanic officers through educational and conference opportunities. The partnership will also allow the Marine Corps to reach beyond currently serving Hispanic officers and engage Hispanic officers and veterans who have returned to the civilian sector. In turn, these individuals will serve as ambassadors for the Marine Corps to the civilian Hispanic communities across the county. These ambassadors, much like Naval Academy Blue and Gold Officers, can provide mentorship to the prospective applicant and assist them with the application process by directing them to their nearest OSO or NROTC program manager.
• Create a Spanish-language version of LifeAsAMarine.com to reach out to and engage parents and influencers of young Hispanic-Americans whose first language is not English. LifeAsAMarine.com is targeted to those individuals who have the largest influence on the life of a young man or woman contemplating service in the Marine Corps: parents. A Spanish-language version can bring out qualities of Marines and the Marine Corps with which Hispanic families identify, such as family values, character, and honest work. Providing the website in the native language of a Hispanic family will allow the site to be inclusive to extended family members while picking up the nuances of the language that may be lost in translation.
• Convene a panel of officers to discuss the implementation of the above items and other items discussed during a conference. The results of this conference should be reported to the Commandant with suggestions and recommendations on how to implement Hispanic officer recruiting as the primary minority officer accession demographic.
• An office of Hispanic outreach within the MCRC should be established. This office would be the central desk to control the implementation of all approved recommendations of the panel, manage the implementation of the Hispanic NROTC scholarship program, identify key areas for additional Hispanic OSOs, and liaison with civilian and military Hispanic groups and organizations. Additionally, the office will work with the Marine Corps’ contracted advertising agency to implement an updated and expanded brand marketing campaign targeted at young Hispanics, particularly those attending or planning to attend college.
The Marine Corps has a long way to go to create an organization that represents a cross section of America. By recognizing the changing face of this country and implementing minority officer accession policies that represent that change, the Marine Corps will be a pioneer of new and bold diversity recruiting efforts across the Department of Defense. Putting aside agendas and focusing on what’s right—and backed by statistics and demographics—the Marine Corps can truly say it was at the forefront of creating the first Service that accurately represents the people whom it serves.
1. Amos, Gen James F., Commandant’s Planning Guidance, HQMC, Washington, DC, 2010, p. 14.
2. Flynn, LCpl David, “Commandant delivers diversity guidance to recruiting leaders,” 20 December 2011, available at www.marines.mil, accessed 28 January 2012.
3. Day, Jennifer Cheeseman, National Population Projections, undated U.S. Census Bureau report, available at www.census.gov, accessed 28 January 2012.
5. Military Leadership Diversity Commission, Propensity to Serve in the Armed Forces, Issue Paper #12, Washington, DC, January 2010, p. 2. The Commission was established with the 2009 National Defense Authorization Act.
6. For additional information on citizenship through service, see the military page of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s website at www.uscis.gov.