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Do we need Affirmative action for MEDALS OF HONOR?

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Why do blacks receive fewer valor medals?

By LEO SHANE III

Stars and Stripes

Published: June 13, 2011

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WASHINGTON — There aren’t a lot of black faces in this year’s Heroes special section. Unfortunately, that’s not a surprise.

Every year, we try to present a diverse selection of battlefield stories, to best reflect the makeup of the military. We seek representatives from each of the services. And we want to make sure that every hero we feature isn’t a white male.

And, in most respects, this section succeeds in that. We rarely have to search for Hispanic troops to profile. We’ve had trouble finding women, but that’s not unexpected given the Defense Department’s prohibition against women in combat.

But finding African-Americans who have received valor awards has often been difficult. It has meant scouring other newspapers and blogs looking specifically for black heroes. It has meant tactless last-minute calls to public affairs officers asking for help identifying “troops with heroic stories, but they have to be black.”

Since we began publishing the Heroes special section seven years ago, we have included profiles of 21 black servicemembers and veterans — just over 10 percent of the total stories.

This year, we tried to figure out if there’s a reason why those stories of extraordinary heroism by African American troops seem hard for us to find.

The Defense Department does not track racial data on valor awards, and has no central database of all the troops who have received those honors. So there is no empirical way to determine whether black servicemembers receive proportionally fewer valor awards than their counterparts.

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But broad demographic shifts in the military over the last decade suggest that one of the main reasons we’ve seen fewer battlefield awards for African-Americans is because there are fewer African-Americans on the battlefield.

According to figures from the Defense Manpower Data Center, today there are more than 241,000 African-American active-duty troops in the four services, and nearly 130,000 more in the Guard and Reserve.

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But those numbers have dropped significantly in recent years. In 2000, one out of every four soldiers was African-American. In 2010, it was less than one in five. The Marine Corps saw the proportion of blacks drop from nearly 16 percent to about 10 percent over the same span.

Moreover, even fewer blacks are serving in front-line positions, in the kind of combat units where most valor awards are earned.

In 1994, blacks comprised nearly 25 percent of all Army infantry units. By 2009, that figure had dropped to 10 percent. Today, there are four times more blacks serving in administrative or supply positions in the Army than in infantry posts, according to service statistics. Marine Corps statistics show similar trends.

“That doesn’t surprise me at all,” said Edwin Dorn, an assistant secretary of defense in the 1990s and now a professor of public policy at the University of Texas. “That’s in line with trends we’ve seen in the past. In an ideal world, you’d like the distribution of [racial] groups to be close to the rest of the military, but that’s the ideal.”

Why are fewer African-Americans electing to serve in combat units? Dorn said it’s a combination of factors, most pointing toward why many African-Americans are drawn to the military in the first place.

“Some of it has to do with racial trends in society,” he said. “[African-Americans] join the military because they see it as a place they can get a leg up, with more opportunity than the civilian economy. So they think about it as a career, or think about the kind of jobs that can translate into a civilian job later on.”

That means gravitating to administrative jobs that provide a long-term career track or are easier to translate into resume-friendly job skills.

John Sibley Butler, author of several books on race in the military, said the overall decline in the number of blacks in the military is not unexpected, given that college enrollments among African-Americans have increased in the last 20 years. That has brought the military’s racial composition closer to the country at large.

There’s also a long-held perception inside the black community that more minorities were forced to the front lines during the Vietnam War than their white counterparts, Butler noted.

African-Americans comprised roughly a third of Army combat infantry ranks during that conflict, according to Butler’s research. Thus, parents who have encouraged their children to join the military in the last 20 years have also pushed them to seek jobs outside of combat specialties.

“So, while Vietnam was fought disproportionately by blacks,” Butler said, today’s wars “are being fought disproportionately by whites.”

In fact, only about 9 percent of the troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan have been black, even though they make up more than 17 percent of the total active-duty force. In contrast, Hispanics make up roughly 10 percent of the active-duty force and 10 percent of the deaths from the current wars.

Andre Sayles, director of the Army’s Diversity Strategy and Integration office, said the decline in the proportion of African-Americans serving in combat roles has raised eyebrows within military circles. Numerous service-wide studies – including a recent report from the Military Leadership Diversity Commission – have noted the falling combat numbers as a potential area of concern.

“If we are to maintain an all-volunteer army, we must consider all the factors, to include any barriers that may impact lack of African-American service in the combat arms branches,” he said in a statement to Stars and Stripes.

But those are just the statistical explanations. Tyrone Williams, chief operating officer at the outreach group Black Veterans for Social Justice, asserted that African-American troops are receiving fewer valor awards because of lingering racism in the military.

“There is still some institutional racism out there,” he said. “It’s better than in the past, but we still see a lot of bad paper for black veterans, more bad discharges or mistakes with paperwork than with white veterans. It’s still a problem.”

Williams can’t point to any hard data, but he said veterans he works with believe that blacks have to work harder to get recognition and receive services from the military. And because issuance of a valor award depends entirely on recommendations from commanding officers, the process is vulnerable to human biases.

So the medals problem could be due to hidden prejudice against black servicemembers. And it could be due to shifting demographics.

And it could be, as Williams noted, “that you just need some better sources to find the ones that are out there.”

http://www.stripes.com/news/special-reports/heroes/heroes-2011/why-do-blacks-receive-fewer-valor-medals-1.146508


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Filed: K-1 Visa Country: Thailand
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“So, while Vietnam was fought disproportionately by blacks,” Butler said, today’s wars “are being fought disproportionately by whites.”

In fact, only about 9 percent of the troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan have been black, even though they make up more than 17 percent of the total active-duty force. In contrast, Hispanics make up roughly 10 percent of the active-duty force and 10 percent of the deaths from the current wars.

Interesting article Danno, thanks for posting.

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Answer: No.

We should see more recruitment in the inner cities. The military is an excellent option for folks that would benefit from a structure of discipline, valor, and sacrifice.

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Answer: No.

We should see more recruitment in the inner cities. The military is an excellent option for folks that would benefit from a structure of discipline, valor, and sacrifice.

I agree.

To do that you would need to "lower the bar" on entrance qualifications as many of those targeted people in need neither have a H.S. diploma or can pass the entrance exams.

Someone posted a story not long ago about the large percentage of people in general who fail the exam.


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"Those people who will not be governed by God


will be ruled by tyrants."



William Penn

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I agree.

To do that you would need to "lower the bar" on entrance qualifications as many of those targeted people in need neither have a H.S. diploma or can pass the entrance exams.

Someone posted a story not long ago about the large percentage of people in general who fail the exam.

There's plenty though that pass. Furthermore, its not too much to ask for some participation from the DoD in setting up school grants to further academic aims. There's nothing wrong with the DoD using its humongous endowment to think outside the box in sustaining its own enlisted ranks. If, that is, Congress allows it and the DoD can stipulate clearly that these grants would not be contingent upon enlistment. Regular recruiting and perhaps more JROTC programs would assist in keeping things away from the cannon fodder argument.

Do it while they're still in school.

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ah - title mismatch?

medal of honor vs medal of valor - not the same thing.

I assume 'medal of honor' refers to Congressional Medal of Honor, which ain't the medal of valor, at all

(sorry to nitpick, on this one, really)

I find it strange that Stars and Stripes mag would even make it an issue, as is no race implications for hitting the mark to be considered for the Medal of Valor.

Good Analysis on 'where they are', though - administrative vs combat MOS.

Why they trying to stir some sh|t ?

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There's plenty though that pass. Furthermore, its not too much to ask for some participation from the DoD in setting up school grants to further academic aims. There's nothing wrong with the DoD using its humongous endowment to think outside the box in sustaining its own enlisted ranks. If, that is, Congress allows it and the DoD can stipulate clearly that these grants would not be contingent upon enlistment. Regular recruiting and perhaps more JROTC programs would assist in keeping things away from the cannon fodder argument.

Do it while they're still in school.

Wait a minute, first you claim the military life will do these folks wonders, next you suggest the DOD should take on the roll of pre-education, to get them pass the test... with no expectation of enlistment.

Did I misunderstand that or are you friggin looney?


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"Those people who will not be governed by God


will be ruled by tyrants."



William Penn

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