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ASVAB-Mechanical-Comp ASVAB Section 3 : Mechanical Comprehension test success | http://babelouedstory.com/ Tue, 24 May 2022 04:51:00 -0500text/htmlhttps://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/politics/defense/moskos.htm Credit for Military Training

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Veterans who have served in the National Guard or Reserves with less than one year of continuous active service may be awarded 4 semester credit hours toward their degree. The 4 semester credit hours include 1 semester credit hour Military Science elective, 2 semester credit hours Personal Health Promotion (HE 120), and 1 semester credit hour Kinesiology elective. A Member 4 copy of the DD Form 214 must be submitted to the Office of Admissions.

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Military housing company falsified records as families lived in terrible conditions: Former employee Military housing company falsified records as families lived in terrible conditions: Former employee - CBS News

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Amid allegations some military families live with roaches and black mold, a CBS News and Reuters investigation discovered new evidence of potential fraud inside the military’s privatized housing program. A former insider at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas described the practices of falsifying reports in order for a housing contractor to qualify for big bonuses. These allegations are similar to practices at an Oklahoma base that CBS News investigated in June. Omar Villafranca reports.

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Benedictine Military School sophomore using his faith to achieve success in Scouting No result found, try new keyword!A Savannah teen is using his faith to help him achieve success in Scouting ... The Benedictine Military School sophomore should be proud. Rodriguez recently became the first scout in the country ... Tue, 28 Nov 2023 10:00:00 -0600 en-us text/html https://www.msn.com/ Give to the Veteran and Military Success Center

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Math 116 Study Booster Session – Final test Week

You are invited to join the Study Booster Sessions for Math 116 –better known as Calculus and Functions I– on Thursday, December 14, from 12 pm – 2 pm. All booster sessions are held in Korman, room 207. Our Math Resource Center team is happy to help with any questions you may have. Drexel faculty instructors will announce all study booster sessions in class.

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CAT test preparation: Here are the most top scoring sections of this management entrance test Regarded as one of India's most challenging competitive exams, the Common Admission Test (CAT) is conducted annually in November by various IIMs, with IIM Lucknow serving as the organizing body this year. CAT serves as the entrance test for prestigious Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs). Additionally, numerous management institutes and universities offering MBA programmes also consider CAT test scores for admission into their respective programmes.
The CAT test consists of three sections, viz. Verbal Ability and reading Comprehension (VARC), Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR) and Quantitative Ability (QA).
Each section has a 40-minute duration, within which candidates are required to finish that section. The total duration of CAT examination is 120 minutes, or 2 hours.
Qualifying the CAT test requires dedicated preparation by the candidates for a prolonged period of time. Paired with that, effective revision is also required for scoring high on each of the sections. Here is a low-down on section-wise top scoring Topics that you should prepare for.
Verbal Ability and reading Comprehension (VARC)
The VARC section is considered to be one of the relatively easier Topics to prepare for, and gives the candidate the potential to score the most. At the same time, it requires the candidate to have thorough practice of the Topics in verbal ability, and enhanced reading skills for the reading comprehension questions. Here are some parts within the section that require dedicated focus.
  • Emphasise on reading comprehension: It is regarded as one of the most scoring part; aspirants are required to inculcate the habit of reading editorials and newspaper articles. This will help in grasping the concepts when a comprehension paragraph is given in the CAT exam.
  • Para jumble, odd one out: This part of the VARC section comes with significant opportunities for the candidates to score. This requires minimal effort to prepare; Improving on your reading ability will provide you an advantage over other candidates. Practising this daily will Boost on your speed of processing the given information on the comprehension paragraph. This helps Boost managing time while attempting the questions in the section.
Read Also: CAT Score vs Percentile 2023
Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR)
Focus on practising non-traditional type of sets. The trend for the past few years has indicated that the questions are less data-intensive, and more logic based. This gives an opportunity to score higher, if the practice is focussed on unconventional problem-solving exercises, and different kinds of puzzles.
Important Topics include:
  • Arrangements
  • Games and Tournaments
  • Puzzles
  • Venn diagrams (maxima-minima)
  • Quantitative LR
  • Spider charts
  • Graphs & charts
Quantitative Aptitude (QA)
Thorough understanding of fundamental concepts during practice sessions can help in last-minute revision and reduce test time. The QA section has numerous questions and high potential for scoring due to the straightforward nature of questions. Here is a list of sub-topics you should focus on.
Ratio & Proportions; Average & Percentages; Simple & Compound Interest; Time, Speed & Distance; Time & Work
Linear Equations; Quadratic Equations; Polynomials
Geometry: 3D Solids, such as cones, cylinders, spheres, and 2D Geometry, which includes shapes like triangles, circles, squares
Tue, 21 Nov 2023 03:08:00 -0600 en text/html https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/education/news/cat-exam-preparation-here-are-the-most-top-scoring-sections-of-this-management-entrance-test/articleshow/105036191.cms

ASVAB-Mechanical-Comp test success - ASVAB Section 3 : Mechanical Comprehension Updated: 2024

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Exam Code: ASVAB-Mechanical-Comp ASVAB Section 3 : Mechanical Comprehension test success January 2024 by Killexams.com team
ASVAB Section 3 : Mechanical Comprehension
Military Comprehension test success

Other Military exams

ASVAB Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery
ASVAB-Word-Knowledge ASVAB Section 1 : Word Knowledge
ASVAB-Arithmetic-Reasoning ASVAB Section 2 : Arithmetic Reasoning
ASVAB-Mechanical-Comp ASVAB Section 3 : Mechanical Comprehension
ASVAB-Automotive-and-Shop ASVAB Section 4 : Automotive & Shop Information
ASVAB-Electronic-Info ASVAB Section 5 : Electronic Information
ASVAB-Mathematics-Knowledge ASVAB Section 6 : Mathematics Knowledge
ASVAB-General-Science ASVAB Section 7: General Science
ASVAB-Paragraph-comp ASVAB Section 8: Paragraph comprehension
ASVAB-Assembling-Objects ASVAB Section 9 : Assembling Objects

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ASVAB Section 3 : Mechanical Comprehension
Question: 173
In the figure above, if the cogs move up the track at the same rate of speed, Cog A will __________.
A. reach the top at the same time as Cog B
B. reach the top after Cog B
C. reach the top before Cog B
D. have greater difficulty staying on track
Answer: C
The larger cog (Cog A) covers a greater linear distance in a given period of time.
Question: 174
If a house key, a wooden spoon, a plastic hanger, and a wool jacket are all the same temperature, which one feels
the coldest?
A. key
B. spoon
C. hanger
D. jacket
Answer: B
The key will feel coldest because metal is a better conductor than the other materials.
Question: 175
In the figure above, if the fulcrum supporting the lever is moved closer to the cat, the cat will be __________.
A. easier to lift and will move higher
B. harder to lift but will move higher
C. easier to lift but will not move as high
D. harder to lift and will not move as high
Answer: C
If the fulcrum is moved closer to the cat, the length of the effort arm of the lever will be increased, making the cat
easier to raise, but the height to which the cat can be raised will be reduced.
Question: 176
The mechanical advantage of the block-and-tackle arrangement shown above is __________.
A. 2
B. 4
C. 6
D. 1
Answer: A
Because this block-and-tackle arrangement merely changes the direction of the pull, it has a mechanical advantage
of only 2.
Question: 177
When Cam A completes one revolution, the lever will touch the contact point __________.
A. once
B. never
C. four times
D. twice
Answer: D
When the high point of the cam connects with the lever arm, the lever arm will touch the contact point. Two high
points on the cam mean the lever arm will touch the contact point twice with each revolution of the cam.
Question: 178
A single block-and-fall is called a __________.
A. fixed pulley
B. gun tackle
C. runner
D. sheave
Answer: C
A single block-and-fall is called a runner.
Question: 179
A clutch is a type of __________.
A. universal joint
B. coupling
C. gear differential
D. cam follower
Answer: B
Clutches connect and disconnect parts, so they’re a type of coupling.
Question: 180
A cubic foot of water weighs about 62.5 pounds.
If an aquarium is 18 feet long, 10 feet deep, and 12 feet wide, what’s the approximate pounds-per-square-inch
pressure (psi) on the bottom of the tank?
A. 2 psi
B. 4 psi
C. 5 psi
D. 7 psi
Answer: B
You can determine the pressure of all that water by multiplying the volume of the aquarium by the weight of the
water. Volume = lwh. The bottom of the tank is 18 feet long by 12 feet wide by 10 feet high for a total volume of
2,160 cubic feet (18 x 12 x 10).
A cubic foot of water weighs approximately 62.5 pounds. 2,160 x 62.5 gives an approximate pressure on the bottom
of the tank of about 135,000 pounds over the entire surface area. The surface area of the bottom of the tank is
length x width.
216 inches (18 feet x 12) x 144 inches (12 feet x 12) = 31,104.
Dividing the pressure of 135,000 by the number of square inches of surface area gives an approximate PSI of 4.
Question: 181
Springs used in machines are usually made of __________.
A. plastic
B. bronze
C. nylon fiber
D. steel
Answer: D
Machine springs are usually made of steel although sometimes they’re made of brass or other metal alloys.
Question: 182
The force produced when a boxer’s hand hits a heavy bag and "bounces" off it is called __________.
A. static electricity
B. magnetism
C. recoil
D. gravity
Answer: C
Recoil occurs when an object producing a force is kicked back.
Question: 183
In the figure above, if Gear 1 has 25 teeth and Gear 2 has 15 teeth, how many revolutions does Gear 2 make for
every 10 revolutions Gear 1 makes?
A. about 162/3
B. 12
C. about 1/3 more
D. about 20
Answer: A
To determine the answer, multiply the number of teeth Gear 1 has D and the number of revolutions it makes (R).
Divide that number by the number of teeth
Gear 2 has D to determine the number of revolutions Gear 2 makes (r). Because the gears are proportional, this
formula will show you the ratio of teeth to revolutions. r = DR/d r = (25 x 10)/15 r = 250/15, or 1610/15, or 162/3
Question: 184
Looking at the figure above, when Cat B lands on the seesaw, Cat A will __________.
A. remain stationary
B. hit the ground hard
C. rise in the air quickly
D. enter the stratosphere
Answer: C
Cat B landing on the seesaw will propel Cat A into the air.
Question: 185
Air weighs about 15 psi.
What’s the amount of pressure (force) exerted on the top of your head, given a surface area of 24 inches?
A. 360 pounds
B. 625 pounds
C. 5/8 pound
D. 180 pounds
Answer: A
Power equals force divided by area in square inches (P = F/A). This formula can also be stated as F = A x P.
Substitute the known quantities. F = 15 x 24 = 360 pounds.
Question: 186
If a first class lever with a resistance arm measuring 2 feet and an effort arm measuring 8 feet are being used,
what’s the mechanical advantage?
A. 2
B. 4
C. 6
D. 1
Answer: B
Mechanical advantage can be calculated as Length of Effort Arm ÷ Length of Resistance Arm. MA = 8 ÷ 2 = 4.
Question: 187
The bottoms of four boxes are shown above. The boxes all have the same volume.
If postal regulations state that the sides of a box must meet a minimum height, which box is most likely to be too
short to go through the mail?
A. NO. 4
B. NO. 2
C. NO. 1
D. NO. 3
Answer: D
The box with the largest area on the bottom will have the shortest sides. If length x width x height = volume, and
all the boxes have equal volume, then the sides must be shortest on the box with the largest area on the bottom.
Calculate the area of each box bottom: NO. 1 = 20 square inches; NO. 2 = 35 square inches;
NO. 3 = 48 square inches; and NO. 4 = 27 square inches. NO. 3, which has the largest area, will have the shortest
Question: 188
An induction clutch works by ___________.
A. magnetism
B. pneumatics
C. hydraulics
D. friction
Answer: A
An induction clutch is a magnetic clutch.
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Military Comprehension test success - BingNews https://killexams.com/pass4sure/exam-detail/ASVAB-Mechanical-Comp Search results Military Comprehension test success - BingNews https://killexams.com/pass4sure/exam-detail/ASVAB-Mechanical-Comp https://killexams.com/exam_list/Military 'Last Stop USA': How the Army Is Trying to Fill in for a Broken Education System

Nearly every student, sitting at desks in Army uniforms at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, had a similar story. The public schools they came from were crumbling: There were holes in the walls, books held together with duct tape, few computers, not enough teachers and failing air conditioning that made paying attention in class impossible in the sweltering heat.

Test scores, which were already falling before the pandemic, took a nosedive, and recent years have seen a blitz in teacher strikes over poor working conditions and being paid wages not far above the poverty level.

For the Army to fill its ranks with aggressive recruiting quotas, it needs applicants who can meet a baseline of academic standards meant to be measured by the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB. A dwindling pool of young Americans can meet those enlistment requirements, forcing the Army to pick up the slack as it scrambles to get kids up to snuff.

Read Next: After Missing Recruiting Goals, Army Announces New Occupational Specialty to Increase the Ranks

"I felt like everything I saw on the ASVAB wasn't what I was taught in high school. Everything was really basic in school," said Pvt. Alvarez Anastasia. "I had a hard time, and I felt school kind of set me up for failure."

By many measures, the K-12 school system in the United States is broken. No monologue from "The West Wing" about how public schools should be palaces is going to fix what is quickly becoming a national security risk. National test scores have plummeted, and ACT scores also took a significant hit. In the class of 2022, only 42% of those tested hit the basic benchmarks for English, reading, math and science.

This last year, the Army made a bet it could help more young Americans clear academic hurdles to be eligible for service. More than 10,000 soldiers, like Anastasia, have attended the resulting Future Soldier Preparatory Course, which has a track for students to lose body fat to meet the Army standard and one to meet its academic standards on the ASVAB, with the Army investing far more heavily in the academic track.

In total, there are eight academic companies at Fort Jackson and only two for the fitness track. There is also a small academic track at Fort Moore, Georgia, previously known as Fort Benning.

Roughly 95% of soldiers graduate and are then allowed to attend basic training, whereas many of them would have previously been turned away and not allowed to enlist.

In some cases, these soldiers are bad test takers or speak English as a second language. Some basic tutoring, structure and immersion with the ASVAB is all they need. But instructors for the course explained that most of the deficits they're seeing are tied to basics that should be taught at every school; some of the young recruits coming in didn't understand basic multiplication, what a leap year is, or how many seasons are in a year.

The recruits get 90 days to retest and qualify for a job in the Army, but the majority graduate in the first three weeks. Nearly all of the 30 soldiers interviewed by Military.com felt their schools had failed them.

In contrast to the schools they grew up in, the classroom for the Future Soldier Preparatory Course is comfortable and well equipped, at least by Army standards. There are three civilian instructors who have backgrounds teaching in public schools and are generally paid more, teaching roughly 30 students at a time sitting four to a table. And of course, there is a drill sergeant who takes a back seat to most of the instruction and is less rowdy than they otherwise would be with young trainees, adding to a student/faculty ratio that would make most elite private schools jealous.

Students here are just trying to get to basic training, and until then, drill sergeants are just there to corral the soldiers and provide a baseline example of what soldiering is about.

Most of the soldiers come from poor, rural communities, many from the South -- places with few promising job opportunities. Some dropped out after a quick stint in college as the price of higher education has skyrocketed. In one case, a gay recruit hoped the military could be the means to escape a judgmental family.

These are young adults from low-income or working-class families, the kind where parents work long hours and are not always able to help with homework, with tutoring sessions well out of financial reach.

"A lot of trainees come from the bottom," said Erin Hollier, a civilian instructor for the Future Soldier Preparatory Course. "What they needed that they didn't get from their schools and maybe not even their home is for someone to say, 'Hey, I care about you.' That's what I think makes my classroom successful, because I genuinely like cheering for the underdog. … For these kids, this is last stop USA. It's either this or 'I can't pay my bills.'"

When Military.com visited the classroom, the students were going over reading comprehension and basic algebra, critical skills tested on the ASVAB. Performance on the test, which is akin to standardized tests students take throughout grade school, dictates whether someone is eligible to enlist and what jobs they qualify for in the Army.

As alarm bells have been going off nationally in terms of sliding education performance, the Army has seen a drop in applicants able to meet even the lowest academic standards.

No longer a pilot program and now cemented into the Army's portfolio, the prep courses are expected to be the status quo for getting applicants into the service. The prep courses were spurred by an ongoing recruiting slump that has badly impacted the Army but hasn't spared the other services. A shrinking pool of young Americans eligible to serve is at the core of that issue. Pentagon officials estimate that only 23% of 17- to 24-year-olds could serve, primarily due to the obesity epidemic and inability to meet the academic enlistment standards.

"This is a pathway to service," Brig. Gen. Jason Kelly, the Army Training Center and Fort Jackson commander, told Military.com. "So instead of complaining about what we don't have, I'm excited about what we're going to do with the pool that wants to serve. The onus is on us to ready those that want to serve."

Kids and young adults are still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on education, with sweeping declines in math and reading abilities. Those issues have been slowly growing in severity the past decade, but school closures accelerated a decline in academic ability among teens.

That decline at America's schools, where disparate funding levels have long created vastly different education outcomes demarcated by race, has had a disproportionate impact on Black and Hispanic students who make up an outsized component of the Future Soldier Preparatory Course. There, Black soldiers are nearly 34% of the class, compared to making up just 20% of the Army. Hispanic recruits are 24% of the class makeup, but are 17% of the Army's ranks. Just over half of the Army is white, compared to only 32% of the Future Soldier Prep Course.

One soldier described having trouble learning and having two siblings with intellectual disabilities. He tried college, but it didn't work out. The Army, as he sees it, is his last chance to be successful.

"I need to prove people wrong about myself because I had a lot of people doubting me ever since I was a kid," the soldier said. "If I had a C, it wouldn't be good enough. A lot of stuff ... it's hard to understand sometimes. It's especially hard to focus."

The military has periodically struggled to fill the ranks with soldiers who have achieved its desired education level, a concern that has popped up during most of the significant conflicts in the past century. While the Future Soldier Preparatory Course can graduate up to 12,000 trainees per year into basic training who otherwise wouldn't have been eligible to join in most cases, it's only a bandage on the issue.

During World War II, the military hit a similar problem, with roughly 750,000 men assessed as having rudimentary academic ability. At the time, an enlisted service member was expected to be at a 4th-grade level of educational proficiency.

Some 10% of those who failed to clear the basic academic hurdle in 1942 could still enlist if they were deemed otherwise "intelligent and trainable." There was some concern at the time that draftees were pretending not to know how to read to avoid serving. The following year, that number was dropped to only 5% after illiterate soldiers began causing problems in the field. But meeting the massive quota to build the ranks during an all-consuming war proved too difficult at the time. The Army tried sending reading material to public schools to help prepare students for military entrance exams, but never got a significant enough buy-in from educators.

Instead, the Army created what was an early 1940s-era Future Soldier Preparatory Course for illiterate applicants who would be placed in a 15-student class for basic writing and reading comprehension. Throughout the war, 107,075 men attended the course, according to Army records from the time. Roughly 80% of those men finished the course within two weeks, passing the Minimum Literacy Test, proving they could read and write at a 4th-grade level, and were allowed to move onto basic training.

Those training efforts were considered successful at the time, supplying replacement troops to the front lines. But whether those replacements were more helpful or harmful to the fight has been questioned by some historians, and Army records show that those men quickly lost reading and writing abilities obtained in their pre-basic training course.

During the Vietnam War, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara created Project 100,000, a program to enlist men who failed academic entrance exams. Most of them were assigned to the Army, and many had disciplinary or performance issues. In some cases, they accidentally shot their fellow soldiers or themselves, and were more likely to be killed by booby traps and mines. They died at three times the rate of other Americans serving in the war.

The Army did briefly initiate a policy in June 2022 waiving requirements for a high school diploma or GED, though that idea was scrapped after only a week amid scorn from some members of the military community.

"The problem facing the Army today in contrast to the two World Wars is basically one of salvaging the failures of the school system rather than of educating the uneducated," a 1979 Army report on recruiting efforts reads. "Success of any program developed by the Army will be made difficult by the fact that the trainee often enlisted to get away from a school environment with which he could not cope and is immediately placed back in a school situation."

There is early success with the Future Soldier Preparatory Course. Soldiers can attend for a maximum of 90 days, but can move onto basic training after improving their scores and qualifying for a specific job in the service. Soldiers increase their scores by an average of 18 points after their first three weeks on a test with a maximum score of 99 and enter basic training. That score is a percentile and compared to recorded scores from other groups.

But it's unclear whether those trainees and the classroom immersion is just helping them to take the test or if they are truly set up for a successful military career, which past research has suggested is strongly correlated with test scores. Army planners say long-term data needs to be collected, and that it could take three to five years to truly measure the success of the prep course.

"We might be getting people who are scoring better," Beth Asch, an economist at Rand Corp. who studies military recruiting, told Military.com. "But are we getting people performing at the level we are requiring that have been associated with higher scores?"

-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.

Related: Once a Pilot, Army Program for Recruits Who Fall Short of Weight, Academic Standards Is Becoming Permanent

Story Continues
Tue, 19 Dec 2023 16:58:00 -0600 en text/html https://www.military.com/daily-news/2023/10/06/last-stop-usa-how-army-trying-fill-broken-education-system.html
How test Success Masks Lack Of Writing Skills
Photo by Olu Eletu

The A-level test results are out in the UK. Over 350,000 teenagers have been placed on undergraduate courses, according to UCAS, the organization that manages applications to UK full-time higher education courses. And while they jump for joy, excited at the prospect of going to university, some social commentators and education critics are harrumphing.

They feel that despite their success, these exam-savvy youngsters are woefully ill-prepared for the real world. And that the ones who go to university are simply entering outdated institutions that don’t prepare them for the world of work.

Most university courses aren’t vocational. Yet, the debts that mount up throughout a course (an average of £50,000) are forcing students to create a “personal brand” and a portfolio of work before they leave – so that they have a chance of competing in a crowded marketplace once they graduate.

In the past, students were only expected to step-up their writing, thinking and analytical skills while at university. Now, they’re expected to take Instagram-worthy internships and use social media to network their way to success. They’re expected to document their skills and capabilities across a range of social media so that they can effectively secure work opportunities.

A report from the Department of Education showed that in 2017, graduates and postgraduates had higher employment rates than non-graduates. And that the average, working-age graduate earned ÂŁ10,000 more than the average non-graduate.

So good, so far. But this emphasis on securing work is contributing to a hole in their university life. This manifests as poorer quality reading and writing skills on the essays they write throughout their course. And the writing they do in the business world. This is not new. And it’s not down to youngsters spending more time on Snapchat than perusing the abridged works of Shakespeare. But it’s a skill gap that doesn’t seem to be closing.

Many arrive at university after years of teachers “teaching to the test”. Students haven’t necessarily been given the opportunity to think for themselves. At least, not in an academic sense. Their teachers have been judged on results throughout their teaching careers. So, their primary task hasn’t been to help students to write fluently, or accurately. In fact, while 26.4% of exams scored an A or A*, just 1.8% of English language exams were graded A*. Overall, the teachers have done their jobs, which has been to get their pupils to pass. And the overall pass rate for 2018 sits at 97.6%.

But when school leavers get to university, many will find themselves in a quandary. It’s likely that they’ll feel a pressure “to get their money’s worth”. Yet, they’ll also be faced with a barrage of new concepts and theories. And they may not have the writing skills to communicate them effectively. Ironically, this can hamper their chances in the job market.

A Royal Literary Fund report called “Writing Matters” labeled the writing skills of students “shocking” and “inadequate”. What’s more, an academic survey cited in this report found that 90% of lecturers said it was necessary to teach writing skills to students. Yet, university is structured so that the teaching of writing skills is not embedded into courses. It’s a veritable chicken-and-egg situation.

In any case, qualifications alone don’t sell themselves anymore. So, students need to see themselves as a package, not as a vessel for their test results. They need to hone their soft skills – their ability to think well, write well, be emotionally intelligent and communicate with themselves and others.  Employers want to hire people who are creative, resourceful and resilient.

So, as students crack open the prosecco and celebrate their results – I say we provide them a break. Going to university is a massive life transition in itself, as is starting work for the first time. It’s easy to forget the days when you couldn’t boil an egg. And it’s easy to forget that it’s the system itself that isn’t teaching students the writing and communication skills they need to truly succeed in life and work.

Thu, 16 Aug 2018 00:03:00 -0500 Greta Solomon en text/html https://www.forbes.com/sites/gretasolomon/2018/08/16/how-exam-success-masks-lack-of-writing-skills/
Success Story: Blacks in the Military
Atlantic Monthly Sidebar

May 1986
Blacks occupy more management positions in the military than in any other sector of American society.

by Charles C. Moskos

The banquet for black officers of flag rank fairly glittered with stars. Seventy-six black generals and admirals--active, reserve, and retired--were being honored at the National Guard Armory in Washington, D.C. The date was February 26, 1982. More than two thousand people were present. The secretary of defense, Caspar Weinberger, gave the principal address. Perhaps predictably, the banquet received little attention in the national media. Surprisingly, however, it also received little attention in the black press.

The absence of coverage was noteworthy because the record of the U.S. military in race relations is one that deserves recognition. Some 400,000 blacks serve in an active-duty force of 2.1 million. Most of these men and women serve in the enlisted ranks, many as noncommissioned officers, or NCOs, and an increasing number can be found in the officer corps. Blacks occupy more management positions in the military than they do in business, education, journalism, government, or any other significant sector of American society. The armed services still have race problems, but these are minimal compared with the problems that exist in other institutions, public and private.

A visitor to a military installation will witness a degree and a quality of racial integration that are rarely encountered elsewhere. At many points in their terms of military service whites are sure to be commanded by black superiors. In the performance of their military duties blacks and whites typically work together with little display of racial animosity Not only do whites and blacks inhabit the same barracks but also equal treatment is the rule in such non-duty facilities as chapels, barbershops, post exchanges, movie theaters, snack bars, and swimming pools. Observation of any dining facility (as the mess hall has been renamed) reveals little informal racial separation. A rule of thumb is that the more military the environment, the more effective the integration. Interracial comity is stronger in the field than in the garrison, stronger on duty than off, and stronger on post than in the world beyond the base.

By the fall of 1985 blacks accounted for 13 percent of enlisted personnel in the Navy, 17 percent in the Air Force, 20 percent in the Marine Corps, and 30 percent in the Army. Each branch of the military has a distinctive history and reputation with respect to blacks. Of the four services the Navy has been the slowest to recruit large numbers of blacks (although today it recruits actively). The Army has always been at the forefront. Ten percent of its officers today are black, a proportion twice that for the Air Force and Marine Corps and three times that for the Navy. The Army, with some 776,000 men and women on active duty, is by far the largest of the armed services. In terms of what blacks have achieved in uniform and the difficulties they still face, the Army is a bellwether for the military as a whole.

Military sociology is a small academic specialty, most of whose practitioners, like me, are white. My research has allowed me to observe at close hand the variable progress of race relations in the Army for three decades. The title of my first published journal article, written in 1957, when I was a draftee, was "Has the Army Killed Jim Crow?" My answer at the time was Yes. It was clear, however, that the end of overt segregation in the armed forces had not spelled the end of discrimination. The persistence of subtle forms of racism in an otherwise completely integrated setting defines to this day the experience of blacks in the military. Yet there is no question that on the whole the military has served blacks well, just as blacks have served the military well. The story of blacks in the military is instructive. So is the fact that it has received little attention.

The account that follows is based on my own observations of Army units in the United States and in Europe and on numerous interviews with blacks of every rank, including a half dozen black generals whom I have known for many years. Because the military personnel I spoke with asked not to be identified, I have used pseudonyms.

Some background information may be useful. In 1948 President Harry S. Truman abolished racial segregation in the armed services by executive order. Starting with the Korean War, in 1950, integration proceeded rapidly: first at training bases in the United States, then in combat units in Korea, and finally at U.S. military installations around the world. Racial integration in the Army was accomplished with striking speed (the process took only five years) and thoroughness, at least on a formal level. By the mid-1950s a snapshot of a hundred enlisted men on parade would have shown, say, twelve black faces; integration was a fact of life. At a time when blacks were still arguing for their educational rights before the Supreme Court and marching for their social and political rights in the Deep South, the Army accomplished integration with little outcry--but not without cost. It almost surely lost support from some of its traditional conservative allies, yet it did not gain support from liberal groups.

One reason that integration went so smoothly was that at first it affected enlisted men almost exclusively, and enlisted men of every race, as the saying went, had always been treated "like Negroes." There were few black officers in the Army during the 1950s, so integration required only relatively minor adjustments on the part of the command structure; resistance to greater change might have been intense. If the paucity of black officers (they would make up less than three percent of all Army officers until the Vietnam era) helped to facilitate integration, it was also one obvious indication that racial prejudice in the armed services remained a force to contend with.

The main reason that integration succeeded in the military has to do with the special nature of military life. Orders, once given, must be followed, whatever a soldier's private feelings or misgivings. Those who cannot adapt to Army life generally either fail to re-enlist or are weeded out. Thus once the decision to desegregate the military was made, it was final. There was no turning back, no recourse to delays, no catering to racist sentiments. From that time on, no known racist could expect to occupy a position of authority in the military hierarchy.

The integration of the military has taken place in three phases. From the Pentagon's point of view the 1950s and early 1960s--phase one--represented a quiet period in race relations. The increasing activism of the civil-rights movement, coupled with the widening of the Vietnam War, led to turbulent change. Truman's executive order had brought blacks partway into the military mainstream; the upheavals of the mid- and late 1960s provided the impetus for some measure of real equality.

Many factors and events coincided to initiate phase two. If integration was the rule on base, beyond the gates discrimination was blatant, especially in the South. Blacks were no longer disposed to accept such treatment. Where, moreover, was the black officer corps? The black draftees of the l950s were fast becoming NCOs--the backbone of the Army--but as late as 1968 only 0.7 percent of the new class of plebes at West Point were black. Racial prejudice of some sort, blacks contended, was to blame. The Vietnam War heightened racial polarization. While many black leaders, notably Martin Luther King, Jr., denounced the war, the antiwar movement was led mainly by whites. Middle-class whites were the most adept at avoiding the draft, legally and illegally. Perhaps the most emotional issue of all--and one that politicians white and black still bring up--was the contention that black troops were used as "cannon fodder" in the field.

This charge, as it happens, is unfair. Black fatalities amounted to 12.1 percent of all Americans killed in Southeast Asia--a figure roughly proportional to the number of blacks in the U.S. population. But the other issues raised by blacks, inside and outside the military, were obviously legitimate. The war years were marked by well-publicized breakdowns of discipline among black servicemen and, more broadly by an atmosphere of racial hostility in the ranks. Racial clashes occurred in Vietnam, on military bases around the world, and on ships at sea. All of this must be seen in context, however. In the waning years of the war the Army was unraveling in more respects than racial ones.

Racial tensions subsided as the war wound down, and the military took a hard look at its procedures. Several steps were taken to Boost relations between blacks and whites. Most visibly, courses in black history and the dynamics of racial prejudice became an integral part of every soldier's basic training. How much good this accomplished is impossible to say. Some soldiers--black and white--derided such efforts as attempts at "black pacification." And junior black officers were often shunted into race-relations slots (to teach the courses and serve as equal-opportunity officers) and thus were unable to pursue careers in other, non-race-related arenas of military service. Many senior officers retiring today do so with a heavy conscience, knowing that they did not do all they might have to save the careers of young black officers who were thrown into the breach.

More important for blacks than the new race-relations curriculum was the revision of the efficiency report, a performance evaluation that carries a lot of weight in all promotions. Starting in the early 1970s a new category appeared in the efficiency reports for officers and NCOs: race-relations skills. Filling out this section was mandatory, and the requirement was rigorously enforced. More blacks received promotions. Some officers with a poor record on race were relieved of command. All of this helped to set a tone. If only for reasons of self-interest, Army officers and NCOs became highly sensitive to the issue of race. Today one is more likely to hear racial jokes in a faculty club than in an officers' club. And in an officers' club one will surely see more blacks.

The end of the draft, in 1973, ushered in phase three. With the advent of the volunteer military, the white middle-class soldier became something of an endangered species. The military, armed with bonuses and the prospect of good pay, began recruiting at the margin. The citizen-soldier was replaced by Economic Man. For poor blacks and poor whites there was simply nothing like the Army. In the last year of the draft blacks made up about 17 percent of the enlisted force. By the early 1980s the proportion had nearly doubled. The qualitative improvement in the Army's race relations was thus accompanied by a major demographic shift. The appointment in 1977 of Clifford Alexander, a black, as the secretary of the Army seemed to ratify what was occurring at all levels in that branch of the service. Even today, in a Republican Administration not known for its openness to blacks, the Department of the Army remains an exception. Two of its five assistant secretaries are black: Delbert R. Spurlock, for manpower and reserve affairs, and John L. Shannon, for installations and logistics.

The army's enlisted men, three out of ten of whom today are black, will continue to come disproportionately from the pool of young blacks as long as opportunities for these youths remain limited in other occupations. But blacks are not only being pushed into the Army; they are also being pulled. In recent years several factors have made a spell in the Army increasingly attractive: a more positive image of military life as the memory of Vietnam recedes, a vastly improved recruiting command, the availability (since 1982) of GI Bill-style educational benefits, and the generous pay earned by new recruits. A buck private receives a base pay of $7,668 a year, in addition to room and board, medical care, pension, and other benefits. He may receive an enlistment bonus of up to $8,000.

A 1982 study published by Martin Binkin and Mark J. Eitelberg, of the Brookings Institution, showed that an astonishing 42 percent of all qualified black youths enter the military, whereas 14 percent of their white counterparts do. Since the end of the draft the proportion of high school graduates among blacks entering the Army has consistently exceeded that among whites, although the gap narrowed in the 1980s with the overall improvement in recruiting. In 1985, 95.4 percent of black men joining the Army had high school diplomas, in comparison with 87.6 percent of whites. Indeed, the Army's enlisted ranks are the only significant social arena in which black educational levels (though not test scores) surpass those of whites. A longtime employee of the U.S. Army in Europe--a German--told me during the late 1970s, "In the volunteer Army you are recruiting the best of the blacks and the worst of the whites." At the time, his observation was basically correct. Since then, as the Army's enlistment package has gradually become more generous, better-qualified whites have been lured to the recruiter and the proportion of blacks in the enlisted ranks has dropped by a few percentage points. Still, the overall picture since the end of the draft is one of growing black participation in the volunteer Army. And it continues to be true that the black recruits are among "the best of the blacks."

Young men and women can join the Army for enlistments of two, three, or four years. All soldiers undergo an eight-week basic course, essentially infantry training. Basic training represents a leveling process. At no other time in a soldier's Army career will racial differences be so utterly inconsequential. After basic training the recruit is sent to advanced training, where he is assigned a military occupational specialty (MOS). Most advanced training courses take six to twelve weeks, though training for some technical specialties may require as long as a year. Upon completion of advanced training the enlisted man is sent to a permanent duty station, where, in most cases, he can expect to complete his initial enlistment.

Blacks and whites diverge during selection for advanced training, because black soldiers tend to score lower than whites on aptitude tests. About two thirds of white recruits, and about one third of blacks, fall in the top half of the test distribution. Black and white test scores are much closer among soldiers than among civilians, but the gap in the Army is substantial nonetheless. Because scores on aptitude tests help determine a soldier's MOS, there is a racial differential in many military jobs. Thus blacks are more likely than whites to be assigned to "support" branches of the service. They make up 50 percent of those in supply, 46 percent of those in food service, and 44 percent of those in general clerical work. Blacks are less likely than whites to be found in highly technical fields, such as signal intelligence, cryptography, and electronic warfare. And in combat specialties--the guts of the Army--black participation has been declining. From 1980 to 1985 the percentage of blacks in the infantry dropped from 32 to 22 percent. Declines were also registered in the armored and artillery specialties. Although blacks are overrepresented in combat specialties relative to their numbers in American society, they are considerably underrepresented relative to their numbers in the U.S. Army. Despite popular perceptions, black males are not being tracked into combat units.

The disparities in job assignments stem ultimately from the fact that the Army's insulation from civilian life is not total. Whereas blacks in the military are more likely than whites to have high school diplomas, they are also more likely to have attended inferior public schools. The Army can often mitigate the effects of social and educational deprivation, but it cannot eliminate them.

In one important respect black soldiers do significantly better than white soldiers: making it through the initial enlistment. Since 1978 about one white male soldier in three has been prematurely discharged for reasons of undisciplined behavior, lack of aptitude, psychological problems, or the like. The figure for black male soldiers is one in four. Even among soldiers of similar educational background, blacks are more likely than whites to complete their enlistments.

For women soldiers, the racial contrast in attrition rates is even more striking. Blacks now make up 42 percent of enlisted women (who account for 10 percent of the enlisted ranks overall). Black females have been far more likely to complete their enlistments than white females. The low attrition rates for black women in the Army are not easily explained. Many black women claim that they have more street savvy than their white sisters, that they are simply better able to take the physical demands of Army life, or that they have a better sense of knowing when to "get over" (as goldbricking is now called) and when not to. Perhaps the main reason why blacks, male or female, are more likely to make a go of it in the Army is that they know that for them the grass is not necessarily greener in civilian life.

But blacks who return to civilian life after being honorably discharged earn significantly more than blacks who have not served in the military. The most carefully crafted research on the matter has been conducted by Harley L. Browning, Sally C. Lopreato, and Dudley L. Poston, Jr., a team of sociologists at the University of Texas at Austin. They have found that white veterans with a high school education fare the same in civilian life as their nonveteran counterparts, but that military service has a substantial positive impact on men who have not finished high school or who are black (or Hispanic). This finding is noteworthy because soldiers in general and black soldiers in particular do not leave the military with skills readily transferable to the civilian marketplace. The explanation seems to be that the military teaches deprived youths how to cooperate and how to cope with the bureaucratic complexity of large-scale organizations. The military, in the words of the Texas study's authors, functions as a "bridging environment."

But I think there is more to it than that. The interracial leveling of military service gives black soldiers a perspective on society less easily acquired by black nonveterans. Just to have completed a tour of duty means that a black soldier has competed, and competed successfully, with whites. The Army experience emphasizes the correlation between reward and effort (as opposed to reward and race). A black sergeant put it this way: "The Army showed me that life can be hard no matter what your color. No race has it easy." That realization surely accounts for some of the intangible advantage black veterans take away from military service.

If the Army is a bridging environment, it is also one in which relations between the races, particularly among enlisted men, remain complex. Racial harmony does not always prevail. Some whites see blacks as arrogant if not threatening, and as the beneficiaries of a double standard. Some blacks see whites as deceptive and sometimes racist, and as the beneficiaries of a double standard. When a post is large enough to have more than one enlisted men's club, the clubs tend to become monopolized by one race or the other. As elsewhere in society, the closest friendships normally develop between people of similar educational or social backgrounds.

Still, provide or take a surly remark here, a bruised sensibility there, the races do get on. The most common Topics of concern and conversation, among and between the races, have nothing to do with race but deal with the work of the Army and with the good and the bad of military life. The locus of friction in the Army lies not so much between whites and blacks as between soldiers and sergeants, enlisted men and officers, line units and staff units, and so forth.

The influx of blacks in the Army has changed the culture of the barracks. A partial Afro-Americanization of enlisted life has occurred. Black Pentecostal congregations have been established on many bases; their services not only have attracted some whites but also have begun to influence the style of worship in more-conventional on-post services. White soldiers are moving away from a long-standing preference for country-and-western music. Rock-and-roll is now the music of choice, but disco, soul, and especially rap music have strong followings. If there is a favorite comedian among enlisted men today, it is undoubtedly Eddie Murphy.

How do whites and blacks perceive the racial climate in the military? Opinion surveys commissioned by the Army--there have been at least a dozen since the end of the draft--repeatedly reveal that whereas black soldiers are more likely than white soldiers to discern the persistence of racial discrimination in the military, they are also more likely to express satisfaction with their Army careers. The views of Specialist William Jones, a tank mechanic in West Germany, are fairly typical of what one hears from junior black enlisted men. Jones, who comes from the Cabrini-Green housing project in Chicago, credits the Army with "having pulled me up, and saving me from the streets." He does not mind fixing tanks but knows that his Army training will not have a direct civilian payoff. Jones sends money home to his mother on a regular basis, and he also puts fifty dollars a month into an educational fund (the Army matches it twofold). Jones likes the Army but knows it is not perfect.

"You can still bump into an invisible shield of racism, but you have to ignore it," Jones says. "I was at the EM [enlisted men's] club and heard a white call someone a nigger the other night. I was shocked to hear it. I know whites are still top dog. But I know that we've got to get along together in peacetime if we're going to fight together in wartime." Jones says that when he goes back home now he has little in common with his friends who stayed behind. "They're still hanging around waiting for something to happen. They'll never grow up. They'll always be losers. We don't have much to talk about anymore."

Relative rates of promotion have something to tell us about the status of blacks in the Army. During his first enlistment a soldier can expect to achieve the rank of specialist or corporal (E-4) or in some cases sergeant (E-5). Advancement to senior NCO grades--staff sergeant (E-6) and upward--takes much longer. A complex formula that weighs test scores, evaluations by superiors, service record, and interviews with a promotion board determines who will fill the openings that occur. Within twenty years of service a soldier will almost surely attain the rank of staff sergeant, and most likely will make sergeant first class (E-7) and get a shot at master sergeant (E-8). Sergeant major (E-9), the Army's most senior enlisted rank, is attained only by exceptional men and women, almost all of whom are making the Army a thirty-year career.

If there is a black center to the Army, it is among the 94,000 black noncommissioned officers. Because blacks are about one and a half times more likely than whites to re-enlist after their first hitch, the black presence in the Army is notably high in the NCO corps. About a third of all buck sergeants and staff sergeants and about a quarter of all first sergeants, master sergeants, and sergeants major are black. The rates of black promotion to the top three enlisted ranks are slightly lower than average. Primarily this reflects the relative underrepresentation of blacks in combat specialties, where promotion is easiest to achieve.

Sergeant Major Harold Smith joined the Army in 1956, the same year I was drafted. He has seen from the inside all the changes that I have seen as a frequent visitor. "The longer you stay in," he told me not long ago, "the more you can see that racism knows how to hide itself. But it's there. Still, I owe the Army a lot. When I came in, it was my last option. I wasn't middle-class and I sure wasn't upper-class. I wasn't even working-class. So you know what that leaves."

"The Army was my only chance to turn myself around, and I took it," Major Smith said. "I went to Vietnam three times. Along the way I picked up a bachelor's degree, and I'm halfway through my master's. But the thing I'll never forget is those days of race troubles. I used to think those race-relations and black-history courses were all to the good. Now I think we were tricked. The black soldier needs courses on how to use the system, not on telling whites our secrets."

"There are more-subtle forms of racism today than there used to be," Smith continued. "Some of the white boys have posters saying THE SOUTH WILL RISE AGAIN. I tell them to take them down, because it bothers the blacks. Some of the white sergeants say I'm too touchy. I'll say this, though. I know some of those white sergeants are racists, but they never once let anything slip. That's progress of a sort.

"Why did I stay in so long? I wanted to teach young black soldiers how to make it in a white man's world. If you expect to provide orders, you have to learn to take orders. You have to adapt to the Army; it's not going to change for you. It's as simple as that."

Many black NCOs profess a kind of bootstrap conservatism. They can easily recognize a part of themselves in the character of Master Sergeant Vernon Waters, in the movie A Soldier's Story, set in the days of the segregated Army. Sergeant Waters is obsessively concerned that blacks not play the fool in front of whites. Waters can be seen as a martinet or as someone who challenges black soldiers to do their best. What is different today, of course, is that black NCOs lead soldiers of all races. Black sergeants take umbrage at any hint that they are partial to blacks. Indeed, an analysis of efficiency reports by Charles Hines, a black brigadier general who holds a Ph.D. in sociology, suggests that black sergeants grade "average" black soldiers more severely than white sergeants do. If there is any racial favoritism in superior-subordinate relations, it is certainly not black favoring black.

Because of their unwillingness to show favoritism, a number of senior black noncommissioned officers say that they feel helpless to alter a trend that has disturbing implications for junior black NCOs. During the late 1970s, when recruitment and retention rates were relatively low, the Army accepted many people into its ranks--including many blacks--who were of less than superior caliber.

Army Secretary Alexander dismissed as racist any criticism of the quality of the new recruits. Now, at a time of high recruitment and retention rates, those enlistees are coming up for re-enlistment and promotion. Thanks both to the lingering effects of the recession of 198l-1983 and to new enlistment incentives being offered, the Army has been enjoying something of a buyer's market. Standards for re-enlistment and promotion have been raised. Some black soldiers who have performed well in subordinate roles and who would easily have won promotion several years ago cannot meet the new standards. The senior black NCOs I've talked to are of two minds about the situation. On the one hand, they know that many of the most vulnerable black candidates for promotion were coaxed to join by an Army desperate for recruits, and encouraged to think of military service as a career. On the other hand, they believe that the highest possible standards must be maintained, both for the Army's sake and so that there will be no question that blacks have met those standards.

What the near future holds is already clear. Blacks in the Army, hampered by low test scores, will be promoted into the ranks of the NCO corps at a rate somewhat lower than that for whites. But because disproportionately high numbers of blacks will be candidates for promotion, blacks will continue to account for more than their share of the Army's NCOs. The social importance of these twenty-and thirty-year soldiers transcends their function in the military. Every year for decades to come some 2,500 black NCOs in the Army (5,000 in the military as a whole) are expected to retire from service. Most of them will be relatively young and looking forward to second careers. The impact of this group of men and women on the civilian black community is impossible to predict, but it is likely to be tangible and positive.

Above the ranks of noncommissioned officers in the Army is the officer corps, where one person in ten today is black (the figure was one in twenty-five as recently as l972). If officers are the executives of the armed forces, then the armed forces boast more black executives than any other institution in the country. The Army's l0,000 black officers come from several places. The most prestigious source of a commission is still the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and about seven percent of its graduating class in recent years has been black. However, most officers, white or black, come not from West Point but from campus-based detachments of the Reserve Officer Training Corps. ROTC produces six times as many officers as the Military Academy does, and one ROTC graduate out of five is black. The expansion of the black officer corps is due in part to the expansion of ROTC since l969 at historically black colleges--the Pentagon's response to the abolition of ROTC at many predominantly white institutions. Almost half of all Army ROTC, commissions received by blacks are awarded by twenty-one black schools.

Whether or not race enters into the officer-promotion process remains a bone of contention in the military. An equal-opportunity assessment conducted in l984 shows that black and white officers are selected at about the same rates for the advanced service schools, war colleges, and command assignments that are so important for career advancement. Still, white officers believe that blacks are unfairly favored in promotion decisions; black officers contend that they have to be better qualified than whites in order to advance. The truth seems to me to lie with the black viewpoint.

A very senior black officer gave me this succinct appraisal, one that is seconded by most older black officers: "You don't have to be a supernigger anymore, but you still have to be better than the rest to make it." Another senior black officer said, "We can run the race with handicaps, but don't expect blacks to perform miracles. The Army, to its credit, doesn't make us perform miracles." He continued, "I'm thinking about some of the younger guys. They don't understand that a black still has to do more than a white to get promoted--maybe not as much as before, but still more. If they think equal effort will get equal reward, they've got a big surprise coming."

At the pinnacle of the military hierarchy are, of course, the generals. As of early this year there were thirty-one black Army generals on active duty, about seven percent of the total. Another six black generals were in the Army Reserves or the National Guard. About fifty were retired. Some one hundred blacks have achieved flag rank in the U.S. military, all but four of whom are alive today. Two have been four-star generals--the Army's Roscoe Robinson, Jr., and the late Daniel ("Chappie") James, of the Air Force. Eight blacks have attained the three-star rank. Two black women, Hazel W. Johnson-Brown and Sherian G. Cadoria, have become brigadier generals in the Army. The promotion of a black to flag rank is no longer a rarity in the American military. It occasions little comment.

To a person, black generals look back upon extremely satisfying careers. They are rarely shy about their accomplishments or abashed about their patriotism. If there is a sense of disappointment among them, it is not with the military but with what happens after they leave the military. Black generals feel that few of their kind attain post-retirement positions commensurate with their abilities. One retiree put it simply: "I will state categorically that no black general ever got a decent job in the private sector in Washington, D.C." Another said, "Look--the offers come rolling in for white generals even before they're out of uniform."

What is particularly puzzling is that most of these retired black generals once had responsibility for thousands of soldiers and oversaw logistics systems of enormous cost and complexity. Many are familiar with the contracting and procurement procedures of the defense industry. Yet consultancies and seats in the boardrooms of the military-industrial complex continue to elude even the most highly qualified black generals. Why is this the case? It is hard not to conclude that the discrimination these men have overcome in the military overtakes them again in civilian life.

For the time being, the state of the black officer corps appears healthy. If there is concern among black officers, it has to do with the quality of newly minted black second lieutenants, fresh out of ROTC. A relatively small percentage of blacks at predominantly white schools participate in ROTC. And though ROTC enjoys more general support at historically black schools, this support is not as strong as it once was. These schools, moreover, no longer attract the cream of black high school graduates. Observers agree that the levels of writing and analytic skills among recent ROTC graduates from the black colleges are lower than those of their predecessors--a development that could eventually affect promotion rates. Black leaders in the Army worry that the pool of highly qualified black officer-candidates could dry up. One senior black officer told me that unless the black middle class somehow gets behind ROTC, the patterns of the old segregated Army might recur--with blacks aplenty in the enlisted ranks and a senior officer corps consisting almost solely of whites.

Whereas the black community is alert to the opportunities that the military offers its young people, it has difficulty focusing on the black career officer. Certainly, black officers are seen as individual success stories by their families, friends, and neighbors. But the leaders of black organizations seem reluctant to recognize the achievements of blacks in the military. I have asked many senior black officers why this should be the case, and the following reply is typical of what they had to say: "To pat us on the back would be to pat the military on the back. This they can't afford to do. It galls them that of all institutions, it is the Army that is really making a go of integration."

It galls them, I was told, for several reasons. One is that blacks in the military have chosen to pay their dues in the white system, not the black one; as a result, career blacks in the Army have less of an affinity with established black organizations than many other blacks have. More important, though, is the ideological orientation of civilian black leaders. Most of them are uninterested in, even alienated from, the long-term goals of American foreign policy, among which resistance to Soviet expansion is central. When foreign-policy issues are raised by black leaders, the discussion generally involves racist features of U.S. behavior overseas, especially in Africa and the Caribbean. I do not know of a single elected black official or prominent spokesman who supports increased defense spending. Among traditional black leaders there does not seem to be much conviction that blacks have a stake in broad defense issues. Black leaders often find it hard to reconcile themselves to the fact that black officers are the military executors of policies that they deem irrelevant at best. When the Congressional Black Caucus issued a formal condemnation of the U.S. invasion of Grenada, the reaction of one black general was, "Why can't they support us just this once?" Another general explained, "I just tune out the so-called black leadership when it comes to anything military."

As such comments suggest, the estrangement is mutual. Black officers tend to be unimpressed with the black civilian establishment. Senior black officers emphasize that as military managers they have acquired a special set of skills. They command thousands of men, and they provide orders to whites as well as blacks. They have learned from the inside how a mainstream organization functions. Inevitably, their circumstances affect their perceptions. Among black civilians a large majority sees in Jesse Jackson a stirring leader who was shortchanged by the Democratic Party establishment. Many black military officers, in contrast, see Jackson as a man who does not understand the white world and who is therefore destined to be largely ineffective on a national stage. Black officers view some aspects of the civilian black leadership's agenda as highly dubious; those who argue that affirmative action is necessary nevertheless believe that preferential treatment is inappropriate in the military. They draw manifest self-esteem from the fact that they themselves have not been beneficiaries of such treatment--rather, the reverse. Black officers distrust black leaders in civilian life who would seek advancement through racial politics or as supplicants of benevolent whites. As a group they are unquestionably less liberal than blacks outside the military. While no precise data exist on the subject, career blacks in the Army were probably much more likely than civilian blacks to vote for Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Even so, however, my own informal poll indicates that by far the majority of black officers and NCOs voted Democratic. For the fact is that blacks in the military, unlike whites, cannot forget their color. One career soldier told me, "My wife said I should vote Reagan because the man gave me a raise. But my father made me promise I would never vote for anyone who kept the black man down. I kept my promise to my father."

I have asked many Army blacks what it was that made a military career attractive as an avenue of mobility. For one thing, many of them have said, there were enough blacks in the Army to promise a certain degree of social comfort and professional support. For another, there were enough non-black and non-poor people to prevent the Army from being thought of as a "black" institution or a haven for society's underclass. The Army, in short, delivered the uplift but not the stigma of a government social program. If the Army has succeeded as a remedial organization for many youths with otherwise dead-end prospects, it may be precisely because the Army does not admit to being a remedial organization at all. In the coming debate on whether the nation should institute some sort of system of national service for the young, this point might profitably be borne in mind.

Copyright © 1986 by Charles C. Moskos. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; May 1986; Success Story: Blacks in the Military; Volume 257, No. 5; pages 64-72.

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