The Winds of Change in African American Military Service A Look at Historically Black College Army ROTC Programs Prepared By: Thurman C. Reynolds HRD 880 Spring 2009
Abstract The purpose of this research paper is to examine the variables of service in the United States Army by African Americans, looking at the factors for decreased participation amongst Army Reserve Officer Training Corps programs in hopes of targeting new theories of practice for the recruiting market. Military recruiting has long since been an aggressive market, and has had no major issues since World War II in recruiting minority ethnic groups for service to their nation. The gap seems to lie primarily within the officer ranks of every branch of service, with the army actually being the most diverse.
Problem Statement At a Historical black College and University with an African American enrollment over ninety-eight percent; the contracted enrollment, meaning those that have committed to eight years total federal service, of African Americans within the Army ROTC program is at less than twenty percent of the total contracted enrollment for the entire program.
To gain insight of the means and approaches deemed legal and ethical by the
United States Army Cadet Command for the targeted recruitment of a specific
race of people for participation in the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps.
Introduction to the Problem Historical Overview Some of the finest Army officers were African American pioneers in the military: alumni and former cadre of this ROTC program, the first ROTC program establish at an Historical Black College in America. Once commissioning over one hundred African American Officers a year; we are currently on pace to commission less than fifteen over the next five years. Seventeen percent of the current contracted enrollment in this program is African American
While looking at all the literature involving minority recruitment for military service, especially that of African Americans and Hispanics, one can become quite skewed with deeply rooted opinions of political ideologies.
It is extremely important to understand that with all of our current rights and freedom, there are many of those in certain media circuits who have chosen to voice their ideologies and opinions of numerous topics, to include military service and targeted recruitment.
I strived throughout my research to maintain impartiality and looked at both sides; those that support any depth of military recruiting efforts, and those who oppose or feel that certain rights are being violated by recruitment efforts.
I found literature deeming the military as a legitimate alternative to an unfulfilling life, a means to an end, a way ahead; or as an approach to fuel a war machine with little concern for those they target, specifically underprivileged minorities. Much has been publicized about the military targeting the less privileged and educated, even that of a senator that ran for president. Due to the military ending the draft in 1973, all services had to rethink their marketing efforts to get volunteers to join.
I also found in some literature evidence proving that peer pressure and the new pop culture also may be a hindrance to recruitment efforts. When mainstream America, that which is seen in media circuits, is heading up efforts in protest of our nation’s foreign policy, it is a hard sell for recruiters to convince people to take the road less traveled.
One of the more pro-military, right wing think tanks, actually provide contrary evidence to many civil leaders’ claims that the military targets specifically populations of minority ethnicity, urban environments, and lower income levels.
In looking at my school’s data for this year alone, almost eighty percent of our total enrollment is actually from our four partner universities in the area; one of them another HBCU while the majority producer in our program is a ninety-three percent white university with a devout Christian foundation.
In this year alone only seventeen percent of the contracted Cadets, those who have already committed to military service upon graduation, are African American. That number is staggering considering that there are two Historical Black Colleges and Universities with over ninety-eight percent black enrollments tied to this program.
My hypothesis for our program’s recruitment issues are relative to media outlets and pop culture indirectly affecting college age students decisions about military service; that influential community and government leaders’ public remarks could sway a person one way; and that this university’s specific regional recruiting affects its diversity outreach and expansion efforts.
Out of the literature I researched, I decided to give a written survey as my test instrument to my students numbered at fifteen total.
The sample included eight African Americans and seven white students, our most diverse class of students in the entire program.
Every white student came from the same devout Christian university with half of these students being home schooled or missionary kids. Only one of these students are from an urban environment
The eight African Americans come from our two HBCUs, with all but one of these students coming from urban environments with populations at or above two hundred thousand people. The other was a military dependant who has lived all over the world.
In analyzing the data provided in the survey, the white students top three answers in order for joining ROTC were to: serve their God in a freedom defending capacity and minister to those in need, for the tuition benefits, and to serve their country. My eight African Americans students answered: to cover the costs of education, to serve there country, and to have a guaranteed job upon graduation. These answers were all expected with my knowledge of the sample. It is not a bad thing that they would not say “serve their country” was number one. After all, the military markets education benefits very heavily.
When asked what personal beliefs would most discourage them from military service, the majority answer for both races in the sample referred to the current war and fear of death or injury.
When asked what factors were most significant to them in terms of military service, the white students stated that their parents were either fully supportive or not at all; while the African American students’ parents were sixty percent supportive of this decision, actually higher.
When asked what significant outside factors would contribute to them not joining, the white students stated friends and religious upbringing of some churches; while the African Americans were similar in stating church and community leaders may not necessarily support their choice of military service, and three of the eight alluded to friends outside of ROTC and pop-culture could contribute to low participation.
When asked what perceptions their non ROTC counterparts had of them and their commitment the white students simply stated that their friends think they are crazy, do too much physical activity, and that ROTC takes too much time away from academics.
The African American students in the sample stated that their peers feel that our days are too long beginning at Six A.M., that they don’t have time to do other things, and that they are too busy with academics.
Summary and Future Predictions
My study took a deeper look in to the underlying issues involving recruitment of African Americans for military service and participation in Army ROTC. With the participation differences between the races, I was not actually surprised to see that the same ideals are shared, since one wouldn’t join the military without a hint of patriotism and service. I was actually able to confirm some of my perceptions about the affect of peer and mentor pressure with both parts of the sample. The peer pressure and misgivings of others about military service is present on all campuses, but the necessity for financial aid has been a factor for some of the samples’ involvement in ROTC.
My future predictions are more of necessity with the higher
command also looking to us for answers. It is more that an issue and now a problem, as we have been placed on probation until we are able to show substantial improvement of the ROTC enrollment numbers of African Americans in this program.
We can only speculate at the moment that higher authorities would shut down the program or just move it to our majority producer, as five or more times in our history we have been threatened to be shut down.
Our recent targeting efforts have yet to be determined if they will yield results, and won’t be seen for another two years; but we as the cadre have great pride in this program’s legacy and work tirelessly to ensure its survival.
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