Saying that it "perpetuates a subtle myth," a senior Pentagon official has responded to an AP story that appeared earlier this week, attracting considerable national coverage, regarding the drop in military enlistment by African-Americans. In comments to this NewsBuster, Bill Carr, the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Military Personnel Policy [photo], said that "the AP left readers with an impression that something sinister was emerging, but one must by unusually cynical to miss the real story."
The AP story reported that the number of blacks joining the military "has plunged by more than one-third since the Afghanistan and Iraq wars began. Other job prospects are soaring and relatives of potential recruits increasingly are discouraging them from joining the armed services."
The story describes a Sean Glover in Washington, D.C., who "said he has done all he can to talk black relatives out of joining the military," quoting Glover to this effect:
"I don't think it's a good time. I don't support the government's efforts here and abroad. There's other ways you can pay for college. There's other ways you can get your life together. Joining the Army, the military, comes at a very high price."
Said Carr: "this perpetuates a subtle myth that minorities suffer death or injury disproportionately. The opposite is true as a function of voluntary career selections -- choices that we celebrate. In fact, African-Americans continue to advantage their futures through valuable job training in fields such as medical or dental technician."
Continued Carr: "While the propensity of adults to recommend military service to young people has fallen, African-American influencers remain the least inclined to support military service, owing to factors like Mr. Glover's misimpressions that joining "comes at a very high price." Sacrifice is a hallmark of military service, but the ultimate sacrifice is not borne disproportionately by minorities. Blacks are about 18 percent of the active duty force (officer and enlisted), but represent 10 percent of those killed and roughly 8 percent of the wounded. Whites comprise 70 percent of the active duty force but about three-quarters of those killed or wounded.
"The disparity is attributable to an understandable interest of minority youth in acquiring valuable job skills. Blacks comprise 19 percent of the enlisted force, but 12 percent of the combat arms and twice that proportion -- 24 percent -- in health care fields (blacks are one third of the Admin and Support specialties). Minorities appear to favor high-value job training in preparing for life, rather than the promise of education benefits that are more typical incentives for placement in the combat arms. We celebrate these choices by young people in deciding what best suits their preferences and career plans. In a volunteer military, the volunteers choose their skills."
Concluded Carr: "African-American . . . representation among recruits increasingly is falling in line with the demographics of society -- this is not an unhealthy development in America, as its military continuously seeks to reflect the society it protects. Today's volunteer military increasingly is representative of national demographics, by way of training in skills that support longer-term career plans. All of this is consistent with the objectives established by the nation when it ended conscription and substituted personal choice in forming the most powerful military on earth."
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