BLACK TOP BRASS STILL RARE: Exception began as a Private
America recognizes 60 years of military desegregation this week while not seeing many blacks occupying top positions. After the highly popular retired General Colin Powell, the list of top-ranked African-American military officers familiar to the public gets pretty thin.
Major General Jerry Curry (US Army Ret.), however, is an exception to this rule. Curry rose up through the ranks the hard way, starting as an enlisted private and facing racism and elitism as he went. Yet he harbors no bitterness and is only thankful for the tremendous opportunities that the military offered to him. Curry went on to serve in leadership positions in three presidential administrations.
Curry is available for interviews on the subject of blacks in the military and on the challenge of blacks rising to positions of leadership in the ranks.
“Sure, there were obstacles,” he says, “but rather than allow them to defeat me, I insisted on using them to strengthen me and steel my resolve to succeed.” Curry is a man who got to the rank he did, in part, by acknowledging an uneven playing field while rejecting the path of victimization. “I could have focused on the injustice but what good would that do,” asks Curry rhetorically. “That would have either defeated me or caused me to have goals borne of vindictiveness and neither one of those paths does much good in terms of character-building.”
Curry was a determined individual who saw the U.S. Army as a lifetime opportunity. But today, years after Curry’s rise to the top and decades after Truman ended military segregation, the lack of top minority brass is still an issue of opportunity, but not what one would think.
There are other reasons as well and they are sometimes complex. Many blacks in the military are passing over combat jobs—the kind that lead to executive General and Admiral positions—in favor of the jobs that build foundations for private sector careers beyond the military, such as communications, logistics and engineering.
For Curry and other distinguished African-American military leaders, both current and retired, the scarcity of black military officers is also a byproduct of low recruiting overall, particularly among blacks. This, in turn, creates a snowball effect, as those who do enlist have fewer high-ranking mentors of their own race to compel or encourage them to achieve the same.
“In the end,” says Curry, “it comes down to perseverance and sometimes you have to have a little more than the next guy.”
ABOUT MAJOR GENERAL JERRY CURRY…
Maj. Gen. Jerry R. Curry (US Army Ret.) B.A. M.A. Ph.D. is a decorated combat veteran, Army Aviator, Paratrooper and Ranger who has served his country both in the military and as a Presidential appointee in three administrations.
He served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Carter Administration, as Press Secretary to the Secretary of Defense in the Reagan Administration, and as Administrator of NHTSA in the first Bush Administration.
General Curry also oversaw the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, the military’s weapons testing program, making him a foremost military expert on weaponry
But Jerry Curry was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Far from it, Jerry was a steel mill worker from the small town of Liberty, Pennsylvania who enlisted in the Army as a young private and rose to the rank of major general, a feat almost unheard of.
His recent book, From Private to General – An African American Soldier Rises Through the Ranks (Believe Books, 2007), is a gritty true-life story of an African American soldier determined to succeed in a white-dominated military culture, facing the barriers of racism and elitism without compromising his values or becoming a victim.
Jerry Curry rose through the ranks by distinguishing himself in intense challenges of combat and in military command assignments and by surviving the political infighting that is endemic in the military.
Recently announced as a winner of the 2007 IPPY (Independent Publisher) Book of the Year Award for multi-cultural non-fiction, From Private to General is now available in bookstores.
Curry shares fresh insights on America’s role in Vietnam, achieving racial harmony, challenges in the military, leadership principles and America’s role in the world today.
Gen. Jerry Curry is a man who might have become President if he had chosen politics instead of the military. His insights into politics and military strategy are particularly relevant to the current situation in Iraq and the lessons in leadership he presents are of timeless benefit. His descriptions of combat in Vietnam are particularly fascinating.
THE FOLLOWING AP ARTICLE MAY HELP WITH SHOW PREP..
After 60 years, black military officers rare
Just 10 blacks have attained 4-star rank; low interest in combat jobs cited
WASHINGTON - Sixty years after President Truman desegregated the military, senior black officers are still rare, particularly among the highest ranks.
Blacks make up about 17 percent of the total force, yet just 9 percent of all officers. That fraction falls to less than 6 percent for general officers with one to four stars, according to data obtained and analyzed by The Associated Press.
The rarity of blacks in the top ranks is apparent in one startling statistic: Only one of the 38 four-star generals or admirals serving as of May was black. And just 10 black men have ever gained four-star rank — five in the Army, four in the Air Force and one in the Navy, according to the Pentagon.
The dearth of blacks in high-ranking positions gives younger African-American soldiers few mentors of their own race. And as the overall percentage of blacks in the service falls, particularly in combat careers that lead to top posts, the situation seems unlikely to change.
'Uncle Sam' poster
Still, officials this week can point to…..
To read more on this article, go to: