By Major Van Harl USAF Ret.

Nancy Carroll, an African American grandmother, is raising her three grandchildren. She is unhappy that Army recruiters are trying to contact her granddaughter. She is convinced that (her words) "People of color who go into the military are put in the front lines." I taught Air Force Junior ROTC at a high school in Mississippi. 95 percent of the students were minorities. 80 percent of my cadets were black females. So I have heard this complaint before.

First off, by way of explanation, Junior ROTC is not a recruiting tool; it is a citizenship program. Only approximately five percent of former JROTC cadets ever join the military. But yes I did try to steer my cadets into the military if they were interested.

The biggest concern for my cadets was so few of them were preparing themselves for military employment. Many of my cadets both male and female were single parents. Many of them were not academically up to the minimum standards of the military, and then there was the litany of medical issues that would prevent them from every passing a military physical.

Now do not get me wrong, white kids had these same issues. I just had very few in my JROTC program. What I found were my cadets whom came from a two parent households tended to show more real interest in joining the military. These parents would come in and talk to me about the training and education opportunities their child might acquire in the military.

After doing some research it appears that most young black adults who join the Army come from a two parent home. Also they are just a bright as their white counterparts. White enlistees having an average IQ of 100 and black enlistees have an IQ of 99. Some of my cadets were just marking time in both my class and in high school. I remember one day asking one of my cadets after she had been extremely disruptive in class what she thought she was going to do in life after the State of Mississippi no longer had an obligation to educate her. Her response was she was going to join the Army, "they would take anyone."

Well, my young cadet was very wrong. Our modern military does not need uneducated people; we are just too high-tech. As for the grandmother who thinks black soldiers all get pushed into the mouth of a canon as soon as they join, she is wrong also.

It would appear that young white males who may have been watching one too many Rambo movies are the ones who are signing up to join the Infantry. Black enlistees are going for the training that equates to marketable skills out in the civilian world. They are going into administration, medical & dental technician, and maintenance jobs. It is a lot harder to find employment as a flame-thrower operator in the civilian job market then it is to work on jet engines.

Another reason for the move by black enlistees to non-combat jobs is the large numbers of black females who are joining the Army (women, black or white, can not be in the infantry). The Army has the highest percentage of black service men and women in their branch and the Air Force has the lowest percent.

I used to tell my female cadets that when they saw a black female officer or career NCO that you are looking at a professional black businesswoman. I know they are not wearing the latest fashions to work and camouflage uniforms are not the most flattering for women, but never doubt these women are professional leaders.

This country has made major strides to improve the work place for our black citizens. However, the military has done more and done it better.

Do blacks die in the military? Yes, they do, at a rate of 12 to 13 percent on average (wartime). As for my big Air Force, our minimum entry test scores are 25 percent higher than the other branches of the Department of Defense. When you see black Airmen, those future leaders have some brainpower. They tested well and they learned their Air Force job-skills proficiently.

If your personal politics tell you that you do not want your kids in the military, that is your decision. But I would suggest you not use incorrect information to make that decision. Black students continue to be successful Airmen and mature into outstanding military leaders. Aim high - think purple.

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Copyright 2005, 2012 by Major Van Harl USAF Ret. All rights reserved.