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February 6, 2010

Roundtable Discussion Examines Diversity in the Military

Representatives from several military Judge Advocate General’s Corps gathered Friday at the ABA Midyear Meeting to talk about diversity within their ranks.

The U.S. Army JAG Corps has come a long way since 1971, when women made up only 0.5 percent and minorities 1 percent of the corps. In 2009, women represented 25 percent of the corps and minorities 16.7 percent, Lt. Col. Paulette V. Burton explained to kick off the roundtable discussion titled “Diversity in the Military JAG Corps.”

The Army’s efforts to increase diversity include attending national minority bar meetings and regional minority job fairs, hiring summer interns, and offering a strong incentive plan for those who stay long-term. Retention is a challenge.

“I can’t bring a general off the street,” said Burton, who is the chief of the Judge Advocate Recruiting Office. “I have to groom them through the ranks.”

Capt. David C. Iglesias of the U.S. Navy said there’s been an emphasis on diversity, particularly in the past five years and he’s now seeing “the walk matching the talk.” “If you go on a ship, ladies and gentlemen, it’s unbelievably diverse,” Iglesias said. “We’re not talking typically African Americans, Latinos, Asian Islanders. We’re talking people from Africa, Latin America, eastern Europe. It’s a global force now in a way that it wasn’t when I first went on a ship in the 1980s.”

Col. James M. Durant, U.S. Air Force Academy, called diversity “a matter of national security.”

Col. James M. Durant, U.S. Air Force Academy, called diversity “a matter of national security.”

But Col. James M. Durant of the U.S. Air Force Academy lamented that more progress has not been made across the military, calling diversity “a matter of national security.”

Former ABA President Robert Grey agreed. “When you talk about the intelligence community … and we are nation building, you can’t do that on the ground with a monolithic voice,” he said. “It’s got to be diverse.”

“We have reached this plateau,” Grey said. “It’s almost like a straight line, and that’s not good when you’re monitoring a heartbeat.”

Roundtable participants discussed the need for more formal mentoring and sponsorship programs for new judge advocates. They concluded by talking about how to bring the issue to the ABA as a whole and by starting plans for follow-up meeting.