Beware of the ‘silent epidemic’ | 11/12/2008, 6 p.m.

WASHINGTON (Army News Service) — The Army’s Diversity Task Force director said fewer minorities are graduating from high school, which decreases the number of minority youth who can join the Army.

Brig. Gen. Belinda Pinckney, director of the Army Diversity Task Force, speaks at a Black History Month event at the Pentagon, Feb. 26. (Photo by Elizabeth M. Lorge)

Brig. Gen. Belinda Pinckney said she has already met with leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus on the issue of decreasing minority graduates and said the problem is being called a ‘silent epidemic.”

She emphasized the important roles people of all races, ethnicities, nationalities and languages play in the Army.

Formed in January after a retired lieutenant general asked Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey if the Army was losing sight of diversity in the face of so many other commitments, the Diversity Task Force will report to Gen. Casey and Secretary of the Army Pete Geren and assess the Army’s diversity efforts, policies, practices and training for leaders and Soldiers, according to Pinckney.

It will also work with corporate America, academia and Congress to learn from best business practices and share experiences. The task force will also, Pinckney said, try to find solutions to problems like the dwindling graduation rate.

“The beauty of this task force is that the Army gets a chance to step back and assess itself; not that it’s done anything wrong,” Pinckney said. “It hasn’t done anything wrong. The Army has always led in these efforts. The workforce is diverse. The Iraqis, in fact, made comments to the chief that they see this team of diverse Soldiers fighting effectively, and we have to continue to do that.

“But we have to look out there strategically and see if we are positioned to target the right individuals. Meaning that we know we have different languages and cultures that we need to understand. So one of the things that the Diversity Task Force can do is look across the Army and say, do we have all the people in the Army that understand a variety of cultures and can speak different languages that will take us into the 21st century?”

The Army already has several ongoing diversity studies and when she reviews them, Pinckney expects to find that great things are already being done. Her goal is to ensure the Army continues to set an example for the nation when it comes to diversity.

“If the Army is going to remain the employer of choice, our human capital strategy must be all-inclusive,” she said during her speech.

“We cannot be complacent in our diversity-management strategy. We must continue to lead, not only our sister services and Department of Defense, but also the nation in our efforts to attract and maintain the best fighting force this nation has to offer. The Army has always taken the lead in inclusive efforts. Now is the time to take this to a different lev el.”

While making connections to the life of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the child of slaves and one of the founders of African-American history, Pinckney talked about how important it is to have inspirational role models, dreams and to make a difference.