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 News Article

Official Recognizes African American Military, National Contributions

By Amaani Lyle
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 2015 – An annual presidential proclamation and Department of Defense memorandum urges the services to highlight the contributions and sacrifices of black soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen in recognition of African American History Month.

Clarence Johnson, director of the Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity, reflected on current and past positive impacts of integration and its necessity in maintaining an edge as an organization nationally and abroad.

DoD Leads in Diversity

“The Department of Defense has led the nation in assimilating diversity into our workforce,” Johnson said in a Dod News interview. “African Americans have played heavily in the diversity and the mission landscape for the DoD.”

In line with this year’s theme, “A Century of Black Life, History and Culture,” Johnson recounted DoD’s diversity milestones throughout the decades.

From President Harry S. Truman’s executive order integrating the services, to removing barriers for civilians and later opening doors to disabled employees, women in service and repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” to grant rights to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community, Johnson described the evolution of the department’s diversity as a force multiplier.

Johnson noted that African Americans over the last 100 years have not only contributed to military history, but to national history.

“I see America as a big piece of tapestry, where we all … contribute to that tapestry and certainly black life, history and culture is important,” Johnson said.

Military icons such as Crispus Attucks, the first black to die in the Revolutionary War, to the Buffalo Soldiers in World War I and World War II, the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II, and Navy Adm. Michelle Howard, the first black woman to achieve the rank of four stars, reflect beacons of hope and resilience in the face of adversity.

“Diversity … gives us a strategic advantage and the opportunity to have everybody participate in decision making and readiness,” Johnson said.

But diversity, Johnson emphasized, extends beyond race and gender.

“We can use the talents and skills sets of all our folks because … diversity not only improves the productivity of the individual,” he said, but also of the team and overall organization. “There’s a war for talent out there and [it] doesn’t know any race or gender, it’s inherent in all populations.”

Military Offers Opportunities to Learn and Lead

Johnson shared his personal experience as a schoolteacher in Mississippi before joining the Air Force as a second lieutenant. Despite myriad opportunities extended to him from outside the Air Force, he said, he opted to remain a blue-suiter due to the service’s team concept and many opportunities to learn, improve and lead.

With 40 years of military and civil service, ascension to colonel and now leading in a critical senior executive service role, Johnson credits his physics teacher and late father for presenting moral and character attributes into his life and propelling him to achieve.

“The military provides you the opportunity to get leadership responsibility fast,” Johnson said. “Nowhere in America will you be able to lead and manage resources as fast as in the military.”

Follow the Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity Office on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @ODMEO to learn more about observance events and diversity across the total force.

(Follow Amaani Lyle on Twitter: @LyleDODNews) 

Contact Author

Clarence Johnson

Related Sites:
Special Report: African American History Month
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