Posted on Oct 11, 2020
Lt Col Charlie Brown
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From a retired Marine Corps officer who is now at the Pentagon....

I was on business travels and have not read all of the Vietnam magazine articles yet. So far, I do not recognize names of people that I personally knew.

Thanks for the package with VFW magazine articles, the NY Times article on Marine Corps promotions of Black officers and also on the allegations made by the Atlantic magazine on what the President did or did not say during his 2018 trip to France. I'll discuss what I know about Black officers but will not discuss the Atlantic's allegations which were full of anonymous innuendos.

The Marine Corps and Navy were historically the most conservative services regarding expanding opportunities for women, Blacks and other minorities. The first Black four star general was Chappy James, an original World War II USAAF Tuskagee Airman. The Army has had four star generals. The Navy has had one four star admiral. The Marines have never had a four star general but, by law, are only allocated two four positions: the Commandant and Assistant Commandant. All the services can get "extra" three and four star positions if, and only if, the individuals are confirmed in designated Joint three or four star positions.



The NY Times article "The Few, the Proud, the White" was pure spin around Colonel Anthony Henderson's lack of selection for Brigadier General. I have no doubt that Col. Henderson was an outstanding Marine officer. Each yaer about 600 Marine colonels are reviewed by a statutory promotion board under the direction of the Secretary of the Navy (not the Commandant!). There are only two statutory annual promotion boards for generals and admirals. The first is for Brigadier Generals (Army, Air Force and Marine Corps) and Rear Admirals (Lower Half aka one stars). The second is for Major Generals (Army, Air Force and Marine Corps0 and Rear Admirals (Upper Half aka two stars).

Of the approximately 600 Marine colonels reviewed annually. Of this group, some will have previously not been selected for Brigadier General; they are considered anyway even though they are "above the promotion zone". The size of principal group (aka "in the zone") is numerically set by the Secretary of the Navy based upon statutory vacancies expect among one stars in the next promotion year. The final group considered is junior to the selection zone (aka "below the zone").

Unlike the other three DoD military services, the Marine Corps does not typically select officers OF ANY RANK from "below the zone." So, the first time an officer is in the statutory promotion zone she/he has already been reviewed once as a member of the previous year's promotion board "below the zone." The Marine Corps does not consider non-selection from "below the zone" as a failure or "pass over" because selections are rare anyway.



In any given promotion year, the Marine Corps is allocated about 10-14 Brigadier General promotions as a function of officer end strength annually authorized by Congress. If the number of anticipated vacancies do not occur, those selected will simply wait for their Senate confirmed promotions until a vacancy opens. So, an officer's place in her/his zone (aka "lineal number") determines their place in line.

I do not know Colonel Henderson nor have I had the privilege of reviewing his official military personnel file and records. This is what the statutory boards due. They are sworn to not publicly disclose these records nor to disclose their deliberations on the officers. If a member of a promotion board believes she/he knows adverse information about a colonel's case, she/he is forbidden to comment on any adverse item not in the officer's official record. However, she/he can comment on any commendatory matter of which they have knowledge...whether or not that is in the official record.

Officers' under consideration by promotion boards, all promotion boards, may write to the President (aka senior general selected by the Secretary of the Navy) of that board with any items they believe should be considered by the board, including commendatory or reference letters not in the official record. In my 14 years of active duty experience as a member of one-two star general officer promotion boards, if commendatory letters are from an officer's reporting senior and amplifies positive items in the officer's fitness report they have significant weight with board members. On the other hand, I have seen cases where commendatory letters were sent by senior officers who did not report on that officer being considered and carried no significant weight with the board. This included cases where active duty four star officers sent letters regarding officers that they knew but had not been the reporting seniors.

During two brigadier general promotion boards, I am aware of several cases where amazingly impressive colonels "above or in the zones" did not get selected. Remember, about 10-14 selections per about 600 colonels..about 2%, an intensely competitive situation. Wherever his career leads him, Colonel Henderson will always be one of the few, the proud, the Marines.

That is no excuse or explanation for the racial and gender disparities which I know have occurred routinely as a result of board member's personal beliefs and cultural biases. Here are the awesome Black generals that have been Marines:

LtGen Ron Bailey, former CG 1st Marine Division, retired 2017 as Deputy Commandant (Plans, Policies & Operations)

LtGen Ron Coleman, in 2006 the second Black Marine officer to make LtGen, retired 2009 as Deputy Commandant (Manpower & Reserve Affairs)

LtGen Walt Gaskins, CG Multi-National Force- West and CG II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) both in Al Anbar Province, retired 2013 as Chairman NATO Military Committee

LtGen Frank "Pete" Peterson, deceased 2015, in 1952 the first Black Marine officer to make Naval Aviator and then in 1979 the first Black Marine officer to make Brigadier General LtGen, Korean War and Vietnam War pilot, retired 1988 as CG, Education & Development Command. He promoted LtGen Coleman to LtGen.

LtGen Willie Williams, retired 2013 as Director of the Marine Corps Staff

FYI, we have had only two female Marine LtGens:

Carol Mutter, retired 1999 as Deputy Chief of Staff (Manpower & Reserve Affairs), Frances Wilson, retired 2009 as President Defense National Defense University

Also FYI, in 2018 Brigadier General Lorna Mahlock became the first Black female Marine general

Semper Fidelis,
Bob
Posted in these groups: B04bb539 MarinesStar PromotionsUs-o7_insignia.svg BG
Edited 1 mo ago
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Responses: 9
Sgt Commander, Dav Chapter #90
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Wow that was quite an epistle, from "Bob"... Amazing!
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SMSgt David A Asbury
SMSgt David A Asbury
1 mo
My guess as well.
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Lt Col John (Jack) Christensen
Lt Col John (Jack) Christensen
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SMSgt David A Asbury No reason to expect it won't.
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Lt Col Charlie Brown
Lt Col Charlie Brown
1 mo
SMSgt David A Asbury - there will certainly be a limited number of GOs; part of that will be driven by force size.
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SMSgt David A Asbury
SMSgt David A Asbury
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I guess only history will show us the answer if we live that long to see.
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SSG Samuel Kermon
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Thank you for the very telling post. Seems there may be bias but there definitely is a cap in the number of general slots.
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SGT David A. 'Cowboy' Groth
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Thank you for the great share Lt Col Charlie Brown
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