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Military: careers that beckon college graduates.

In the military, not everyone rises to the ranks of general or admiral. But an African-American general and an African-American admiral want you and graduates to know that the military holds the promise of tremendous career opportunities in boundless areas that rival civilian life. "When you're in command of a ship you have total authority. To be in command is the ultimate experience," said Vice Adm. David L. Brewer Ill. "Not everyone can be a colonel or the general in charge, but I think you can be happy with yourself such that when you look in the mirror everyday you know that you are giving your all," said Gen. Johnnie E. Wilson, retired Army. Wilson, who served a 38-year-stint, in the Army, is now president and chief operating officer at Dimensions International Inc., an information technology firm in Alexandria, Va. He was born in Baton Rouge, La. and raised in Lorain, Ohio. He entered the Army in August 1961 as an enlisted soldier, achieving the rank of staff sergeant before attending Officer Candidate School that served to propel his career. He held a variety of top-level assignments, including his last as commanding general of the U.S. Army Material Command.


Brewer began his naval career on May 17, 1970. He was a member of the first graduating class of the first Naval ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) unit at a HBCU, Prairie View A & M University in Prairie View, Texas. Brewer's current position is as commander of the Military Sealift Command in Washington, D.C., where he oversees the provisioning of equipment, fuel, supplies, and ammunition to U.S. forces worldwide. His command has more than 8,000 military and civilian personnel and operates some 120 ships worldwide.


When Brewer graduated from that ROTC class in 1970, only 250 of 72,000 total officers in the Navy were African-Americans. There were no African-American admirals, said Brewer, who was promoted in October 2002 to his current rank, receiving his third star.

"When I started my career, given the 250 versus the 72,000, I had a tough time. I had to overcome a lot of what I considered to be inherent bias in the Navy toward African Americans. But I did have a lot of role models along the way, both African American and white, and they really sustained me throughout my career," Brewer said, who was born in Farmville, Va., and reared in Orlando, Fla.


Wilson said the Army first provided him to be part of an elaborate and focused organization and secondly afforded a support structure that allowed him to succeed. "The military has been a model for young people to come in and develop themselves, to be nurtured, to receive support and understand they are part of a team," said Wilson, who earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and a master's in logistics management from the Florida Institute of Technology. In the military, almost every job found in private industry can be found in the armed services. About 88 percent of all military jobs have an equivalent position in civilian life, according to the Department of Defense.

Here is a snapshot of careers offered by the U.S. Armed Services--the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines--made up of 1.5 million officers and enlistees:


The Army says that to be a U.S. Army soldier is to be a part of the world's best fighting force. Soldiers spend their days training, working, and serving together to protect America's freedoms. But the Army wants college graduates to know that they also have time after work for family, friends and personal interests. From recruitment to retirement, the Army seeks to provide a unique and diverse lifestyle for soldiers.

The Army, which has about 500,000 active duty personnel through Sept. 30, 2004, including 81,000 officers, is offering enticements such as money to repay college loans and payments for college tuition, job training, world travel, and health benefits. New active duty enlistees are receiving about $1,400 to $1,800 per month in pay, and bonuses averaging $9,000 are used to entice those recruits with special skills and qualifications. The Army's goal by Sept. 30, 2005 is to sign up 80,000 new active duty soldiers, compared with 77,000 at the end of fiscal 2004.

The first step in becoming a soldier is working with a recruiter. The Army wants its recruiters to learn why each soldier's role in the Army is important. Soldiers are given every opportunity to grow--especially when it comes to careers. The Army seeks to give soldiers the physical and mental strength, job skills, and leadership capabilities that will serve them whether they continue their careers in the Army or as civilians.

The Army has more than 150 job categories for soldiers on active duty and more than 120 for those in the Army Reserve, whether it's working with computers, assisting physicians or fixing helicopters. Broad career areas include administrative support, arts and media, combat, construction and engineering, law enforcement, and transportation and aviation. Every soldier earns money and benefits for his or her service--whether as an officer or an enlisted soldier on active duty or in the Army Reserve. Army personnel are provided with housing and meals if they live on post or money to help pay for them if they live off post.

One of the most important benefits that you may have as a soldier is money to further your education or to pay off your existing student loans. Military skills-training is important to the Army, but so is encouraging you, as soldiers, to attend college or take continuing education courses. As a soldier you may take advantage of the Montgomery GI Bill and the Army College Fund as ways to pay for your college education--up to a total of $70,000 for those soldiers on active duty.

For college students, the Army ROTC program operates on more than 700 campuses nationwide. Army ROTC Cadets gain practical experience in management and problem solving while training to become Army officers. And college students, or those on their way to college, can compete for up to $17,000 per year in tuition scholarships, with generous textbook allowances. The Army also partners with more than 1,600 colleges and four-year universities to help soldiers get higher education during or after their tour of service. Online college correspondence courses are also available to soldiers, and the Army will provide the computers.


The 54,000 officers in the U.S. Navy are among the most well respected men and women who serve in the U.S. military. For college graduates, Navy career fields are limitless--aviation, engineering, healthcare, intelligence and communication, legal, public affairs, special operations, and supply, transportation, logistics. The Navy's goal is to offer careers to graduates that match their talents and interests. The Navy's total force of officers and enlistees is 374,000.

The Navy believes its versatility--operating on land, on water, in the air and under the sea--translates into diverse career choices. For an officer, privileges include signing bonuses for college credits and degrees; advanced training with full pay and allowances; use of officers' clubs worldwide; career and promotion opportunities; 30 days paid vacation annually; money to pay off student loans, and incentives to earn advanced degrees.

Naval officer candidates must attend Officer Candidate School, a 13-week program that challenges members with coursework, physical fitness, and military training, laying a foundation for their Navy careers. Other prerequisites are a bachelor's degree from an accredited university and being 19-34 years old.

For those starting college, the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) can offer students a four-year scholarship worth up to $150,000 at top colleges or universities. Students get to focus on their studies and college life without worrying about how to pay the bill. The scholarship can provide enough money to cover up to four or five years of tuition, textbook fees, a monthly spending allowance, and other related fees.

In the Navy, and all branches of the U.S. military, pay depends on rank and years of service. Promotions depend on performance and seniority. In general, Navy personnel are eligible for advancement after nine months. In addition, personnel at some duty stations are eligible for additional Cost of Living Allowances. Benefits include living accommodations or housing allowances, free dining services or food allowances, a uniform allowance, and full healthcare benefits. Officer salaries too are based on rank and seniority. The monthly pay for an ensign upon receiving commission, for instance, is $2,848.50 plus allowances and benefits.


If you have a college degree or are about to earn one, the 377,000-strong Air Force encourages its recruits to take officer and advanced training. The Air Force Institute of Technology, located at Wright-Patterson AFB, in Ohio, is the Air Force's graduate school of engineering and management as well as its institution for technical professional continuing education. AFIT provides defense-focused graduate and professional continuing education and research to sustain the technological supremacy of America's air and space forces. AFIT has three resident schools: the Graduate School of Engineering and Management, the School of Systems and Logistics, and the Civil Engineer and Services School.

The Air Force's Officer Training School and ROTC provide the two major pipelines to becoming one of the 74,000 officers in the branch. About 80 percent of new Air Force officers each year come through one of these two programs. The Air Force has ROTC detachments at seven HBCUs: Tennessee State University, Tuskegee University, Howard University, Grambling State University, Fayetteville State University, Alabama State University and North Carolina A & T State University. One goal of the Air Force is to establish an ongoing relationship with HBCU institutions. The Air Force also has 744 Junior ROTC units on high school campuses around the world, covering more than 103,000 cadets.

The Air Force also has a formal mentoring program that offers opportunities to every officer, enlisted, civilian, guard or reservist in the Air Force. The program's goal is to help every Air Force person reach his or her full potential through a network of support where mentoring is considered everyone's responsibility, not just that of supervisors.

Like the other service branches, the Air Force offers generous tuition assistance to its personnel. The Air Force tuition assistance program is designed to help active-duty personnel pursue voluntary, off-duty educational opportunities, paying 100 percent of the cost of college courses with a limit of $4,500 per fiscal year. Courses and degree programs may be academic or technical and can be taken from two- or four-year institutions on-base, off-base, or by correspondence. The College Loan Repayment Program offers those who have taken some college courses and accumulated debt an opportunity to help reduce the debt.

The Air Force pilot is a glamour occupation. Pilots and flight specialists have a unique blend of skill and determination that helps keep the Air Force at the pinnacle of air and space power. From airborne missions, to equipment and personnel transportation, to bombing missions, Air Force pilots and their teams get the job done. As an officer in flight specialties, a multitude of opportunities exist.

For those working in non-technical Air Force specialties, coordinating resources and leading mission preparation offer key career opportunities. Positions include jobs in intelligence, manpower, personnel, security forces and communications. In addition, the Air Force offers a number of specialty careers, such as chaplain, combat control officer, special investigations officer, and judge advocate or lawyer.

In addition to housing and food allowances offered by all the service branches, service personnel receive low-cost, comprehensive insurance of up to $250,000 for $20 a month. Allowances are generally tax free, including shopping at the tax-free, on-base department and grocery stores.

Retirement is also a benefit. Personnel are eligible to retire after 20 years of service. The Air Force also requires no payroll deductions for its retirement plan, making it one of the earliest retirements around.

Recreation is a big deal in the Air Force, as personnel set up social activities and recreational programs geared to the interests of each family member. Officers' clubs feature a full calendar of social events for members, spouses and guests. Bases sponsor youth activities, including teen functions. Most Air Force bases have golf courses, arts and crafts facilities, bowling alleys, tennis courts and swimming pools.


Since November 10, 1775, Marines have been trained to be leaders of what this branch of service calls the finest fighting force in the world. Citizens of the United States who have bachelor's degrees or are in the process of getting bachelor's degrees are eligible for the Marine Corps officer program. All majors and areas of study are acceptable. Marine officers must have the desire to be leaders, have a well-rounded background and experience and be flexible.

Marines don't have a specific ROTC program, but other opportunities exist. Platoon-Leaders Class is conducted during the summer--and there is no obligation beyond attending the summer training. And Marines can go through the Navy's ROTC's program. Officer training programs offer annual tuition assistance and a competitive starting salary that can help you with loans or other expenses.

Marine Corps Officer training is designed to be intense. Marine Corps officers are directly responsible for the welfare and job performance of the men and women they command. People's lives often depend on that performance. The career of a Marine Corps officer has many advantages, including a variety of duties, responsibilities, and challenges is unlike any found in the civilian sector.

About 40,000 officer candidates join the Marines each year. Marines are trained in the art of self-mastery, acquiring self-discipline, the courage to undertake difficult tasks, and a steadfast commitment to overcoming challenges. Marines are warriors with a smaller but aggressive force at 177,000 total personnel and 19,000 officers.

Military, an Excellent Career

When President Harry Truman ended formal racial segregation in the armed forces with his 1948 presidential order, it placed the military ahead of the greater American society as a place where African Americans could find careers and succeed. Brewer and Wilson, however, will attest that career opportunities for African Americans who blazed the trails before them didn't surface overnight, but occurred gradually.

While the number of African-American service people is equitably represented in the military overall, according to a report released annually by the Department of Defense, the services are pushing for even greater diversity, particularly for those who are college educated.

In fiscal year 2002, some 16 percent of the enlisted force was African American. Yet Blacks make up a much smaller number of commissioned officers at 8 percent, according to the report, "Population Representation in the Military Services."

In specific service branches, African Americans make up 17.1 percent of the Army; 17.8 percent of the Navy; 10 percent of the Marine Corps, and 15.5 percent of the Air Force. Almost 24 percent of all female recruits to the services in fiscal 2002 were African-American women, while African-American men made up about 14 percent. In reserve officer components for the service branches, where 58 percent of the officers have bachelor's degrees and another 23 percent have advanced degrees, African Americans total 9.5 percent.

Because the numbers of African-American enlistees have fallen during the war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the war on terror, Wilson cautions that this should not be construed as African Americans being less than patriotic. "The first person who gave his life for this nation happened to be a person of color, and people just can't forget that," he said, speaking of Crispus Attucks, the runaway slave who is remembered as the first American to die in 1770 during the Revolutionary War. "We can ill afford to let majority America have the feeling that defending America is not what we of color want to do."

Wilson said that the military seeks all college majors, but he advises that recruits be proficient in communicating as well as being computer savvy. "All of us, regardless of where we went to school, need to be literate in the language. Still today we have many people coming in with degrees who probably don't meet that basic mark. I don't care if you're the greatest mathematician in the world or the greatest scientist or information technology expert, if you can't communicate, all of that technology is just sort of there, and you're not going to move forward," Wilson said.

Brewer, who captained the USS Bristol County and USS Mount Whitney earlier in his career, said there would be both positive and negative role models in the military as in all of life, and young service people need to get their filters in place. "You have to take everything in context. I would always reflect on that negative reaction that I may have received from one of my seniors and basically that inspired me to work that much harder, and it motivated me to show that I was not only as good as my counterparts but better," he said.

The Department of the Army hired 28,402 new employees from December 2003 to November 2004. Of the 28,414 new hires; 20,732 were appointed to federal positions that recognize education in addition to or in lieu of experience, while the remaining 7,682 were appointed to blue collar type positions.

RELATED ARTICLE: Major General Dorian T. Anderson: United States Army

An Interesting and Diverse Career

Major General Dorian T. Anderson was commissioned in the Infantry in 1975 upon graduation from the United States Military Academy. He received a Master's Degree in Management from Webster University. General Anderson is a graduate of the Infantry Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the U.S. Army War College.


MG Anderson's Career Path indicates the type of rewarding challenges a career in the military offers.

Major General Dorian T. Anderson's Advice

Major General Dorian T. Anderson is the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Human Resources Command in Alexandria, Va. As one who hires, he says, "enough people to keep his organization running," he offers the following advice to African Americans in the job market and those who want to advance once they are hired:

"Plug into your Career Services Office. That Office will have experts who can help you in your job search. Once you are there, start looking for opportunities for internships in areas that interest you. Internships during your college summers enable you to establish a network of people who know you, your interests, and the kind of work you do. People who know those things are more likely to hire you than those who do not know you.

"Learn what it takes to be considered for a position. Then prepare yourself to meet those requirements. If, for instance, you are interested in Civil Service, you know that you must pass a Civil Service Test. Go to the bookstore and get practice tests. Prepare for that test.

"If I am looking to hire you, I want to know what you bring to the table. I want to know, first of all, how well you are prepared for the position I have to offer. Then, I want to know whether you offer a genuine interest in the position I am trying to fill. If all you bring is a minimum effort to draw a paycheck, you will not work for me very long. A person who brings a genuine interest in a position joins a team and when given an opportunity to offer his or her opinions, he or she will offer those opinions as an equal. If you are a person genuinely interested in a position I offer, you will somehow indicate that you know that the day's work is dynamic, often lasting beyond a whistle that signals the end of the work day.

"Once I have hired you, I look for these things:

* Have you come to work every day, doing what you are supposed to do?

* Do you dress appropriately?

* Have you articulated yourself appropriately by learning the vocabulary of your employer and showing general interest in things about you?

* Have you shown an interest in upward mobility? When you saw an opening, did you apply for it? You may not have been selected, but your applying demonstrated your interest in moving up.

* Have you continued to improve by joining organizations that offer professional information in your area and by networking?

* Have you been open with your employer about your career aspirations? Always hope that you are working for someone who will help you achieve those aspirations. That way, your advancement will be a cooperative adventure. If you choose to work for an employer unwilling to help you advance, you are likely to become one of those shouting. "I hate my job!"

"Some general advice that is worth repeating:

* Be aware that you may work for an employer who does not want you to give them the impression that you are bouncing around.

* Try hard to work with people who may not like you?

* Big money upfront is not always the best choice. Consider potential earning. It may be better to come in at a lower salary with potential for high earning than to come in at a big salary unlikely to be increased.

* Finally, if you have a passion for what you do, you are in the right place doing the right job."

RELATED ARTICLE: College graduate enjoys Air Force career, takes advantage of education opportunities

When Lawrence Hicks graduated from Louisiana Tech University on a four-year Air Force ROTC scholarship, he planned to serve four years in the service and then find a civilian job. That was 12 years ago. Today, the Air Force major is a student at the Air Command and Staff College (ACSC), Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. The school prepares officers for squadron command positions.

His Air Force travels have taken him around the world to such places as Australia, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore.

When it comes to benefits, the Air Force is hard to beat, according to Major Hicks, a native of El Dorado, Ark. "The education opportunities attracted me to the service," he said. "So far the Air Force has sponsored my bachelor's, one master's and soon, a second master's degree."

By Dale Eckroth

Air Force Recruiting Service

Marvin V. Green is a frequent contributor to The BLACK COLLEGIAN Magazine
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Title Annotation:CAREER REPORT
Author:Green, Marvin V.
Publication:The Black Collegian
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2005
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