"U.S. Marine Corps' Minority Officer Recruiting Program."
Commander's Digest. Vol. 12, no. 2. Washington, D.C. GPO, May 18, 1972. P. 12-13.
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The U.S. Marine Corps' lack of minority officers is the focus of this article. The lack of
minority officers had a direct relationship to the racial problems that the service was
experiencing at that time. Many African-American Marines were unwilling to trust a military
justice system that lacked minority representation nor were they encouraged by the lack of
examples of African-American Marines entering the officers ranks.
U.S. Marine Corps' Minority Officer Recruiting Program
Marine Corps Commandant General Robert E. Cushman Jr. is taking action to increase the number
of minority officers in the Corps. "We need to get more minority officers into our
command structure," General Cushman recently said. "This will provide the
representation for black Marines which they are looking for in our officer ranks."
The Commandant said he feels the small number of minority officers in the upper echelons
has contributed to several problems.
He said that most minority officers, like their fellow majority officers, have proved to
be outstanding Marine leaders. General Cushman, who led the Marines in Vietnam for two
years as commander of the Third Marine Amphibious Force, said, "Minority officers
certainly earned a proportionate share of combat decorations in Vietnam." He added
that their performance has been equally good in all other areas of Marine operations.
General Cushman said the success of minority officers in positions of responsibility has
done much to dissolve prejudicial illusions of some white Marines that non-whites aren't
as competent. He would like to see these personal racial hang-ups completely eliminated,
and thinks more minority officers are an important part of the solution.
The Corps' shortage of minority officers has several other undesirable side effects. A
lack of minority representation in the Marines' judicial system induces a belief among
black Marines that it is "white justice," and that their interests aren't
represented. The absence of minority officers in the Corps' command structure might also
discourage young minority Marines from trying to move up through the ranks.
General Cushman conceded that the Corps hasn't always been an equitable institution. But,
he said, "We have been working hard for several years to correct this deplorable
situation, and have had some success."
He added that he intends to intensify the Corps' efforts to stamp out racial prejudice
among Marines. "We only ask that potential minority officers judge us on what we are
doing now, rather than on what we did in the past."
Helping General Cushman solve minority officer recruiting problems is a full-time job for
Major Solomon P. Hill, a 10-year Marine veteran from Oakland, Calif.
Major Hill was promoted to his present rank in February 1972. He is well qualified for his
assignment as head of the Marines' minority officer procurement program. Following his
graduation from Lincoln University at Jefferson City, Mo., in 1962, he went into the Marines
through the Officer Candidate commissioning program.
He has served in a number of billets in the United States, Okinawa, and Vietnam, with two
tours in the war zone. He has commanded communications and infantry companies, and served
as Staff Secretary of the First Marine Division. He has won a Bronze Star and two Navy
Achievement Medals for meritorious service.
In 1970, he earned a Masters Degree in public administration at Golden Gate College, San
Francisco, through a Marine Corps-sponsored advanced degree program.
Major Hill's job is to develop and manage nation-wide programs to attract minority officers.
He finds it a hard, but satisfying, assignment.
"I run up against a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding in my job," Major
Hill says. "I do a lot of traveling and talking. I find that many non-whites still
think of the Marine Corps in terms of what it was 20 or 30 years ago. They think it is
still as racist as it once was. They simply don't realize how much it's changed, particularly
in the last few years."
Major Hill adds, "I'm not saying that the Marine Corps doesn't have racial problems.
We do. However, we're dedicated to solving these problems, as you'll quickly realize if
you talk to the Commandant."
Major Hill says part of the public's misunderstanding about Marine Corps' racial policies is
related to promotions. Many blacks ask him why the Corps doesn't have any black generals,
like the other Services. The reason for this, according to Marine Corps promotion experts,
is that no black officer has been in the Marines long enough to be promoted to general.
It takes 26 to 29 years of commissioned service in the Marines to make general. The senior
black Marine officer, a lieutenant colonel, has 20 years of commissioned service. Black
officers didn't start making the Marines a career until about the time of the Korean War,
much later than the other Services.
Major Hill says that once he has closed the "misinformation gap," selling the idea
of a commission in the Marines is an easy task. "It's the world's best training ground
for a young man who wants to realize his leadership potential and develop his management
skills. And leadership and management is where it's at these days."
Major Hill looks forward to the day when proportionate numbers of minority officers have
been promoted to positions of responsibility at all rank levels in the Corps – then
his job can be abolished. He says most of his fellow Marines are looking for the same thing.
There is another area where Major Hill and most of his fellow Marines – including
their new Commandant – agree. They think that neither the Marine Corps nor the
Nation it serves can continue to claim it is dedicated to the principle of freedom for
all men if it tolerates racial inequality in its ranks.