Among Navy SEALs, More Native Americans Than Blacks
August 09, 2015, 05:51 PM
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Above, USA Today's caption: "An Army special forces operations officer works in Africa in 2012 with local troops."

From USA Today:

Pentagon’s elite forces lack diversity

By Tom Vanden Brook, August 6, 2015

WASHINGTON — Many of the Pentagon’s elite commando units — including the Navy SEALs — are overwhelmingly led and manned by white officers and enlisted troops, a concern at the highest levels of the military where officials have stressed the need to create more diverse forces to handle future threats.

Black officers and enlisted troops are scarce in some special operations units in highest demand, according to data provided by the Pentagon to USA TODAY. For instance, eight of 753 SEAL officers are black, or 1%.

An expert at the Pentagon on the diversity of commando forces said the lack of minorities robs the military of skills it needs to win.

“We don’t know where we will find ourselves in the future,” said Army Col. Michael Copenhaver, who has published a paper on diversity in special operating forces. “One thing is for sure: We will find ourselves around the globe. And around the globe you have different cultural backgrounds everywhere. Having that kind of a diverse force can only increase your operational capability.”

Because everybody knows African-Americans tend to be multilingual cosmopolitans so fascinated by other cultures around the world that they barely take any interest in their own. Black Twitter, for example, is constantly abuzz with detailed anthropological discussions of the cultural differences among the Central Asian -stans.

… The diversity of special operating forces is closely held information. U.S. Special Operations Command, which oversees all the services’ commandos, declined to provide data on the racial makeup of its forces. USA TODAY had to obtain that data from each service individually, a process that took months. The Marines did not produce the actual numbers of their special operations forces, only percentages.

… The average enlisted special operator is 29, married with two children and has deployed four to 10 times, Votel told the audience.

What he didn’t say is that most of them are white.

The horror, the horror …

… In general, the military has a much more diverse force than key components such as special operations. African Americans made up 17% of the 1.3 million-member armed forces in 2013, according to a recent Pentagon report. Whites made up slightly more than 69%.

Diversity erodes with the breakdown from enlisted to officer ranks. Blacks make up 18.5% of the enlisted troops but only 9.4% of the officer corps. The lack of diversity becomes more evident the further up the ranks you climb. USA TODAY has reported that key commands in the Army and Air Force, the traditional stepping stones for senior leadership posts, are largely staffed by white officers.

Among special operators, the divide is especially stark. Each of the services provided data to USA TODAY.

For the SEALs, the problem extends beyond the officer corps into the enlisted ranks. Of its enlisted men, 45 SEALs are black, or about 2% of the 2,242 members of its elite force. There are more SEALs — 99, or 4% of the enlisted force — who are Native Americans or Alaska natives.

Seriously, that’s pretty interesting. Anybody know anything about this? Is it a fluke or is it related to this weird phenomenon where back in the Jim Thorpe era, part-Indian guys were seen as pretty good athletes (two part-Indian old-timers are in the baseball Hall of Fame: Chief Bender and Zack Wheat). But Native American baseball players pretty much disappeared after Jackie Robinson arrived in 1947, although there have been a couple in this century, including Jacob Ellsbury.

Perhaps calling yourself part-Indian was a way for part-black athletes to make the big leagues before the (official) breaking of the color line? Or has American Indian culture just fallen apart physically into alcoholism and diabetes?

But now I’m wondering if maybe WWII didn’t divert the most vigorous American Indians away from ballgames and back into their ancestors’ favorite thing in the whole world: being a warrior in a small, mobile operation.

Or maybe it’s just the military is trying to up their diversity numbers by getting everybody from Oklahoma to sign up as an American Indian.

Among Army Green Berets, 85% of its 1,494 officers are white and 4.5% are black. Its 5,947 enlisted Green Berets are 86% white and 5.4% black.

For the Air Force’s para-rescue jumpers, highly trained airmen who search for missing troops, only one of 166 is black, or .6% of that force.

Other commando fields, including the Army’s civil affairs and psychological operations fields, the Navy’s small boat crews and Air Force loadmasters, have greater percentages of minority participation but are still below their representation in the military as a whole.

The Marines refused to provide how many special operators they have. Instead, they provided a pie chart showing their racial breakdown. Black officers and enlisted Marines make up about 1% of their special operations forces.

CAUSES FOR LACK OF DIVERSITY

Some of the same forces that steer young African Americans from Army’s combat specialties such as infantry and artillery — the breeding ground for the service’s top leadership — appear to be in play among special operators, the senior Defense official said.

Basically, blacks tend to see the military as a career, not an adventure. And that’s fine. To a lot of blacks of respectable families, the military is not a place to play Rambo for four years before going to college like it is for a lot of white enlistees, it’s a place to have an orderly life for 20+ years doing something involving logistics or the like and then getting a similar white collar job involving paperwork in a corporation or government agency and collect two checks. It’s a good way to get away from the chaos of much of African-American life into a huge institution staffed solely by people who can pass tests and follow rules.

To address the problem, the Army urges young black officers to consider combat specialties, the official said. Promotion boards for officers give greater weight to diversity, and mentoring of minority officers is emphasized.

The lack of minorities in special operations fields can perpetuate itself, Copenhaver said. Many troops follow the lead of their parents into the services, what he calls “family lineage.” If there are few role models among commandos, fewer minority troops are apt to be drawn to the fields, he said.

In other words, by this point a lot of black supply sergeants are descended from two or even three generations of supply sergeants. The 1990s book All That We Can Be: Black Leadership And Racial Integration The Army Way by sociologists Charles Moskos and John Sibley Butler mentioned that a lot of black non-coms in the Army were the children and even grandchildren of non-coms. By now there are probably great-grandchildren serving. They found that the family income of new enlistees in the Army was about equal for blacks and whites, which means that the Army was drawing from higher up the relative social scale among blacks. I suspect that the military attracts whites who are more violent than the white average and blacks who are less violent than the black average.

(By the way, my guess is the Reagan years were a peak for the black experience in the military: America had a huge, decently paid standing army sitting in West Germany guarding the Fulda Gap. At the time of Persian Gulf War in 1991, there were 22 black generals in the Army alone. Then the military was downsized because the Soviet threat collapsed. And in this century, the smaller, more elite military has had to fight more in various long-running brawls in Muslim countries.)

To reverse the trend, the SEALs have had extensive outreach efforts into minority communities, Copenhaver said. At least for now, the data provided by the Navy show limited results of that effort.

Copenhaver said the military should focus its recruiting efforts on the capabilities it needs among special operators. Diversity will follow. For instance, recruiting experts in languages and cultures of the Middle East, Asia and Africa would alter the makeup of special operators.

“Let’s bring in a capability,” Copenhaver said. “Along with that, inherently you gain the diversity.”

But not African-Americans, who tend to be fascinated by the language and culture of African-Americans and not all that interested in the rest of the world.

It’s the usual shell game of whether “diversity” today is used to mean the dictionary definition or whether it essentially means African-Americans?

Recruiters will be on the lookout for “extraordinarily adaptable” candidates.

“Diversity makes us a better fighting force,” the official said. “It’s not simply a question of equity.”

I think in the very back of the minds of Obama Administration officials is the half-formed idea that at some point in a generation or two, a President might find the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution to be a hindrance in getting done what he feels he needs a little more time to do.

But if at that moment the pointiest point of the spear — Special Ops — is still made up of a bunch of slow-talking guys who look like Bradley Cooper or Chris Pratt and hold to an excessively literal interpretation of the oath they took to uphold the Constitution, well, that could be inconvenient. So, maybe it’s time to start recruiting more “extraordinarily adaptable” individuals. Just in case …