The Marine Corps: notoriously fabulous at marketing itself, notoriously shitty at attracting officers who aren't white men. (Only 7 percent are women; 6 percent are black.) Now, the Marines are launching a new marketing campaign to draw more minorities and women into its ranks by focusing on the things they think they're awesome at: training and community engagement.
The campaign is called "Fighting With Purpose" and features a black lieutenant and a female captain talking about how much they love serving their country. Their friends and coworkers also make an appearance to talk about how valued the two officers are. Here's the thing, though: while the male lieutenant talks about how it's always been "a part" of him "to fight for those, who couldn't fight for themselves, whether on my block or around the world," the female Marine Corps captain talks about how she's a cross-fit trainer.
"I think a lot of people look up to me for just my work ethic, how devoted I am to being fit and then just helping," says Monica Meese, who leads cross-fit training in a gym in Arizona. "I love teaching people. I think the stuff that they learn here in the gym or what I teach them is that sense of empowerment, the discipline, the work ethic they get from it. Just makes them happier overall and they can take that into their workplace or their home environment as well."
And while the male lieutenant's spot is more action-packed, officials told the New York Times that they want to appeal to black people by driving home the "community engagement" point. "What distinguishes certain groups, particularly African-Americans, is that they are closely associated with their communities at home," said Maj. Gen. Joseph L. Osterman.
It's wonderful that the Marines are trying to attract more minorities and women, but is it problematic if they're focusing on teachers and "community builders" instead of infantry positions? In theory, not at all, because OF COURSE training and community engagement are just as crucial and commendable as on the ground combat. But in reality, multiple female soldiers, some of who are currently fighting the Pentagon in court, have alleged that the military's policy of excluding women from most combat positions limits women's earnings, promotions, and retirement benefits.
To its credit, the Marine Corps has been working on bringing more women into combat units and its infantry officer corps — in September, two women tried the required course but dropped out without finishing. The Pentagon also opened 14,000 jobs to women earlier this year, but the vast majority that are near the battlefields still remain closed to them.
Senior officers told the NYT that the goal of the new campaign is "to show potential recruits that the corps, while fond of calling itself America's 911 force, is not just about fighting - a message they hope will resonate with young people in general, but women and blacks in particular." That's great, but only if the Marines make sure that the people filling those non-fighting roles have just as much of a chance to succeed professionally.