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The Importance of Diversity in the Army

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The importance of diversity in the Army comes from an expanded pool of applicants intrinsically raising the standards, a wider spectrum of perception in which people of all backgrounds can see themselves represented which increases recruiting, and mission success not only at home but also on deployments. There is an ill-informed misconception that diversity is not a substitute for excellence.

A lack of diversity creates a limit on an array of ideas team members present, opposition to thinking outside the box, and potentially deadly passive uncritical thinking followership. Society tends to hold the perception that diversity is a bilateral, dichotomous caricature with only two potential realities. This includes either an absolutist environment with a complete lack of institutional recognition of the existence of marginalized populations at all, or a quota system blind to merits that only focuses on meeting numbers to represent equal representation of all ethnic, gender, and religious groups.

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The Army thrives from a middle ground situation of the two when there is an expanded selection, which leads to higher potential performers to recruit. With all other factors being equal, a team composed of more demographics will produce more innovation, which is crucial in the shifting and complex battlefield of today. Mixed groups breed more creativity, thus generating a positive feedback loop of more motivation to produce the next big idea. Being a steward of our profession does not only involve maintaining the standard for the next generation but also being innovators to continually improve the force. Rigorous criteria and diversity are not mutually exclusive. In fact, diversity can raise the Army’s standards.

The corporate sector recognizes how crucial diversity is for recruiting when prospective applicants see themselves represented in the workforce. When we can see ourselves reflected in a group, we are more likely to entertain the idea of joining. I felt comfortable enlisting once I met my female recruiter. We had attended the same university and had the same major. Deep down, white males have benefited from this principle for centuries. There is nothing inherently wrong with being white or male. Furthermore, it does not mean that military leaders who fit that description did not work hard to earn their positions. However, it is naïve not to acknowledge that those coming from different genders or backgrounds may have had to overcome more obstacles to reach the same leadership role. For other ethnic groups and women, joining the military, much less becoming an officer, is not as common of a familial nor societal expectation as it is for males. If females sought to join the Army at the same rate as males, especially to selective programs such as commissioning, then the Army’s selectivity and therefore standards would automatically increase significantly. The same principle can apply to other minority groups. However, there would be a more marginal increase than with women because it would not double the applicant pool.

According to Army Doctrine Reference Publication (ADRP), “it is unknown how talents of individuals or groups will contribute to mission accomplishment.” There is still so much untapped potential among us. The Army of today derives its strength from the varied upbringings, points of view, and talents of its personnel, and thus continues to transform into an adaptable, responsive force. When leaders recognize the variable of diversity among their ranks, they better understand how the Soldier’s background and mix of influences molded them as a person and can best delegate their subordinates to optimally utilize their many strengths. Adding diversity to our force not only improves understanding of the populations among which we could deploy but also enlightens us about those in our own formations. Certain religions prohibit women from speaking with non-related males. Allowing female Soldiers to conduct boots-on-the-ground searches and acquire intelligence from local women in the Middle East provides the most reliable information that drones or internet searches cannot. Army operations in all corners of the globe make diversity a vital necessity. A diverse team can ensure firsthand cultural competence and minimize misunderstanding, which can escalate into violence and avoidable loss of life.

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