Diversity training for a diverse Corps

18 Mar 2011 | Sgt. Marcy Sanchez

Diversity among the officer and enlisted ranks, as well as promotion and retention, were discussion topics during the Sea Service Leadership Association’s 24th Annual Women’s Leadership Symposium in San Diego, March 16.

The Marine Corps diversity brief highlighted the Corps’ demographics throughout the ranks and allowed Marines to share their personal experiences and thoughts on diversity.

Former Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James T. Conway developed a diversity policy for the Marine Corps in 2008 which stated, “Our ability to recruit, retain, and promote a diverse, quality force is essential to progress and mission accomplishment.”

However, in a report released March 15 by the Military Leadership Diversity Commission as part of an 18-month research study, it found, “The armed forces have not yet succeeded in developing a continuing stream of leaders who are as demographically diverse as the nation they serve.”

The 2010 Marine Corps Almanac reports only 5.8 percent of the 20,639 active duty officers at the time of the research were female and only 6.4 percent of the 182,147 enlisted Marines were female.

“It’s great to have an opportunity like this to talk about things that are probably on everybody’s minds anyway,” said Col. Lori Reynolds, commanding officer, I Marine Headquarters Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, about the training on diversity. “It’s good to see the numbers.”

Promotions and retention of minorities was also part of the discussion, providing insight to the Marines on the management of promotion boards.

“You have to work your way up to get to where you want to be,” said 1st Sgt. Holly M. Hardy, company first sergeant, Service Company, 9th Communication Battalion, I Marine Expeditionary Force. “We have a lot of senior leaders here today who are giving their perspective on what they went through to get to where they are.”

One thought shared by retired Lt. Gen. Carol A. Mutter was “never forget who you are.” Mutter was the first female Marine to attain the rank of lieutenant general.

Ways of educating Marines back at their duty stations on diversity were also discussed at the symposium.

The MLDC made five recommendations to help the Department of Defense harness diversity and make it a force multiplier. The recommendations include: personal commitment of leaders, a broader understanding on the types of diversity, instituting a clear and robust diversity policy, accountability and monitoring, and sustained focus on diversity and diverse issues.

The training should be pushed down to the lower levels, said Hardy. Implementing the training into the corporals, sergeants, or advance courses would help Marines better understand diversity issues, she added.

Conway states in his policy, “Each individual brings to our team a set of qualities that adds to our overall effectiveness. It is a combination of all these individual qualities that makes our Marine Corps the strongest in the world.”