Green, Maj. Edward L. "Marine Corps Order 5350.5: Race Relations in the U.S. Marine
Corps." Commander's Digest. Vol. 13, no. 4. Washington, D.C.: GPO, November 30,
1972. P. 8-9.
SuDoc No.: D2.15/2
Marine Corps Order 5350.5, the Marines equal opportunity regulation, aimed to institutionalize
equal opportunity in the Marine Corps. Included in the article are statistics regarding the
racial makeup of the Marine Corps, details on minority officer recruiting efforts, and efforts
to eliminate even the perception of discrimination.
Marine Corps Order 5350.5: Race Relations in the U.S. Marine Corps
Maj. Edward L. Green
Special Minority Affairs Assistant to the Marine Corps Commandant
The Marine Corps policy on equal opportunity is contained in Marine Corps Order 5350.5,
"The Marine Corps will provide equal opportunity for all military members and civilian
employees without regard to race, color, religion, sex or national origin... Discrimination in
any form will not be tolerated... Fair and impartial treatment of all personnel is a
significant element of leadership which will be given appropriate consideration in performance
This policy was clarified and re-emphasized by the Commandant, General Robert E. Cushman Jr.
In a recent letter to all generals and commanding officers, he wrote, "First, I fully
expect leaders to lead. To be successful, equal treatment and opportunity for all Marines
and civilian personnel must be carried out vigorously and conscientiously at all times.
Those individuals who cannot or will not abide by this principle should seek other
employment. There is no room for such Marines in our Corps today."
The message is very clear. It was not intended to intimidate, but rather to let all Marine
Corps personnel know the position of the Commandant.
In the Headquarters Marine Corps organization for equal opportunity, a lieutenant general, the
Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower, is the Commandant's personal representative for equal
opportunity matters. The Assistant Chief of Staff G-1 is responsible for development of policy
and guidance on all equal opportunity matters.
The Equal Opportunity Branch was established in 1969 to render staff assistance to G-1. It is
divided into two sections – the Equal Opportunity Section and the Human Relations Section.
The Human Relations Section is responsible for development and implementation of the Marine
Corps Human Relations Training Program.
The date the Marine Corps has not established equal opportunity or minority affairs billets at
subordinate commands, since the Marine Corps position has been that this responsibility is
inherent in command responsibility. It is believed, for example, that the G-4 (Logistics)
should become as aware of the need to name streets and facilities after minority Marines as
the G-1 (Manpower and Personnel) is aware of the need to eliminate serious rank and occupational
field racial imbalances where they occur.
Nevertheless, a number of Marine commands have created a general staff section, headed by the
assistant chief of staff for human affairs. Expansion of this concept is now under review.
To emphasize responsibility in this area, the "remarks" section of all officer and
noncommissioned officer fitness reports will contain a statement of that person's contribution
and leadership in human relations.
Racial Composition of the Marine Corps
As of March 31, 1972 the officer strength of the Marine Corps was a little over 19,400 officers;
at that time 1.4 percent (269) was black. The senior black officer in the Marine Corps is a
lieutenant colonel. There are now four black officers of this rank, and one additional black
officer was selected on the FY 73 board. There is one minority full colonel, who is a
Guamanian. It is not likely that a black Marine Corps officer will be considered for
promotion to brigadier general before 1977.
The total enlisted strength of the Marine Corps as of March 31, 1972 was a little over
177,600, of which 13 percent was black.
In examining the distribution of black Marines within selected occupational groupings, there
is a noticeable underrepresentation of blacks in such fields as electronic
communication/intelligence and aircraft equipment repair (3.2 and 7 percent respectively),
and an overrepresentation in infantry/artillery (19.7 percent) and food service/supply
One of the major factors believed to be influencing this distribution is performance in
aptitude tests administered during the recruit training cycle. The recruit assignment process
is now being examined to insure that a selected percentage of minority Marines will be assigned
to occupational specialties which now show an under-representation, as long as a minimum
qualification is met. It is hoped that this will result in a more equitable distribution
of minority Marines.
Minority Officer Recruiting
Minority officer procurement continues to be difficult. The current strength is 378 minority
officers, of which 28 are black – 1.5 percent of the total Marine Corps strength.
A minority officer procurement unit has been established at Headquarters Marine Corps to direct
a procurement program. There are 12 minority officers in the six recruiting districts throughout
the country emphasizing this effort, and minority officers have also been assigned to the Naval
Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) units as predominantly black colleges and universities.
Additional emphasis was brought to this program when the latest Marine Corps advertising contract
contained the requirement for a minority firm to be used in any advertising aimed at minority
Human Relations Training
The Marine Corps Human Relations Training Program is the counterpart of the race relations
training programs in the other Services. The Marine Corps program covers training and
education in human values, racial issues and their resolution, cross-cultural problems
and the military man's role in the Service and society. This course requires 20 hours
of guided discussion.
Currently there are 113 human relations instructors performing full-time duties in human
relations at all major commands. This course has been presented to approximately 30 percent
of all Marines to date. It is anticipated that by the end of FY 73 all Marines at major
commands will have completed this course. Trained human relations instructors are
authorized an additional MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) identifying their skill
in this area.
As for the Marine Corps Reserve establishment, a pilot study began in September 1972 to
determine the most effective way to implement human relations training throughout the reserves.
As of July 1, 1972, the Marine Corps Human Relations Institute, (at San Diego, California)
was designated a formal Marine Corps school.
Equal Opportunity Actions
In addition to actions aimed at eliminating and discouraging actual instances of
discrimination, action has also been taken to address procedures which merely cause a
Marine to perceive discriminatory treatment where in fact it may not exist. Toward this
end the following actions have been directed by the Commandant:
The equal opportunity effort at the commands is monitored in several ways. Equal opportunity
is a separate area of interest for all inspector general visits. When the Commandant visits
major commands, his Special Assistant for Minority Affairs accompanies him to review the equal
opportunity programs at the commands. This is always a major briefing item during the
- Minorities will be represented on major boards and communities at Headquarters Marine Corps.
- Service Record Book entries which affect promotion and assignment will be discussed with
- Punishments, including Article 15, will be published at formations.
- Work details will receive wide dissemination and, where feasible, be published at formation.
Commandant's Advisory Committee
In addition to these efforts, the Commandant has a special Advisory Committee for Minority
Affairs, composed of prominent civilians from all segments of the minority community. The
mission of the committee is: to advise on ways to bring effectively the true policy of equal
opportunity to all Marines; to assist in the recruiting and retention of minority officers;
to examine the application of the Uniform Code of Military Justice to minority personnel; to
analyze attitudes of Marines and to make recommendations for acceptance and support of the
Committee goals; and to assist in matters involving public and community relations.
Activities of this committee include sub-committee trips to major commands, speeches to local
groups, assistance to recruiters in gaining access to local colleges, and meetings with the
Commandant to review progress and plan new actions.
Marine Corps authorities believe that progress is being made but say, "We are not
satisfied yet." The goal is "to institutionalize equal opportunity throughout
the Marine Corps."