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President Trump appoints first female African American Marine Corps general
Gage Skidmore / CCL
For the first time in the long history of the U.S. Marine Corps, an African American woman has been nominated to the rank of general.
The historic appointment of Col. Lorna M. Mahlock, if confirmed by Congress, marks just the latest attempt by President Donald Trump to create opportunities for women and African Americans in the military.
A historic nomination
According to a Department of Defense brief announcing the nomination, Col. Mahlock currently works as the deputy director of Operations, Plans, Policies, and Operations Directorate at the Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington. Her career has spanned multiple assignments in places including Germany, Japan, and even the Office of Legislative Affairs.
Mahlock’s appointment would make history in a branch of the military that has made much progress in race relations over the last century. The first black recruits to the USMC began arriving in North Carolina to train on Aug. 26, 1942, where they built their segregated barracks and training facilities with nothing but hand tools, grit, and hard work.
The armed forces were integrated in 1949, when black soldiers were finally permitted to fight alongside their white comrades-in-arms. This hardly meant the end of discrimination in the military, however, and in the late 1960s the Marine Corp struggled to keep the peace as racially-charged riots and large-scale fighting took place between black and white Marines, leading to stabbings, beatings, and deaths at Camp Lejeune and in Vietnam and Okinawa, Japan.
As black Marines began attaining higher ranks and receiving equitable treatment, the violence subsided, however, and in 1979, Frank E. Peterson became the first African American Marine to pin stars on his collar as a commissioned general. He was also the first black aviator and first black commandant of the Quantico Marine Corps base in Virginia.
In 1978, just one year before Peterson’s confirmation as the first black general in Marine Corps history, a woman was granted this highest honor by then-President Jimmy Carter. Margaret A. Brewer ascended to the rank of brigadier general in 1978 and began serving as the director of the Division of Information at Marine Corp Headquarters.
Despite this progress, and Trump’s nomination of a Marine who is both a woman and an African American, the Marines still have trouble attracting both black recruits and female recruits. The Corps began addressing this issue in 2012 by launching a campaign to increase diversity within its ranks, which continued through 2015 — when the Pentagon opened up every military occupational specialty to women service members — and beyond.
The real champion of gender equality
This appointment is just one example of President Trump continuing to be a strong advocate for women in the workplace. From Ambassador to the United Nation Nikki Haley and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao to Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, the Trump administration has appointed more women to senior-level White House positions than any other presidency.
Trump has also opted to direct at least $200 million each year in federal funding to technology education grants for women and minorities. The grants are meant to encourage children in these groups to participate in coding and other computer and technology-based activities to prepare them to enter that lucrative career path, which has traditionally been dominated by men.
“We need to create pathways for all our citizens to get jobs,” Trump promised at an Oval Office signing ceremony, surrounded by children. “When you get out of school, you’re gonna get great jobs.”
The president also donated his second quarter salary in 2017 to the Department of Education, to help fund a camp for students to explore science and math careers.
Predictably, the mainstream media has failed to note the empowerment of women under Trump. But despite the media’s choice to ignore it, Trump has remained a champion for an equal and diverse workforce — from the appointment of women and minorities to senior-level positions within his administration to the recent nomination of the first-ever black woman in the Marine Corps to the rank of general.
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