SAN ANTONIO (Army News Service, Jan. 9, 2012) -- Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno spoke Friday to about 100 community, business and education leaders from around the nation about partnering with the Army.

He provided the leaders, known as "Centers of Influence," with an overview of the need for diversity in the military. What he got in return were suggestions to help veterans get jobs and to build those partnerships necessary to keep the nation's military efficient and prepared for any threat or disaster.

These civic leaders came to San Antonio to be a part of the All-American Army Bowl, learn more about the military and take what they've learned back home.

"We still have holes in the Army where we don't have enough diversity, yet. And so we have to tap into those kinds of things," Odierno told the visitors.

"Right now, we have the first female four-star general, but we're not having enough diversity in combat arms," he said.

The best way to become a general is in combat arms and currently women aren't allowed in, Odierno said.

"We're also finding out that African Americans are at a lower percentage in combat arms then they are in others. Why is that?" he said. "So we have to figure out, is it something we're doing as an institution?"

"I want the best staff," he said. "I don't care where it comes from. So this is something we're constantly looking at."


The civic leader whom Odierno was addressing were recommended for the All-American Bowl by the Army's five recruiting brigades, as well as the Medical Recruiting Brigade.

"The COIs are the influencers out in the public. Whether it's moms, dads, principals, guidance counselors or teachers, these folks impact decision making of young folks --- those folks we're trying to attract to join the team," said Maj. Gen. David L. Mann, commanding general for the U.S. Army Recruiting Command.

He said the Army is striving to do a better job of connecting with America.

"Because at the end of the day, it's your Army," Mann explained. "So the more that we can connect with America, to make sure that they understand what it means to be a Soldier, the opportunities that are available, you know, the better off we're going to be into ensuring that the Army, your Army, remains viable and able to support the nation.

The Army, he said, has spent many years developing relationships with these influencers from across the country.

"And what we have here are folks that have been selected to come to the games to learn more about the Army because what we'd like them to do is to take this information back to their communities and to talk about the Army, and to talk about what's available, and also, to assist us in some cases to get into venues and into areas that may be, heretofore, difficult to get into," Mann said.

For instance, he said, it's difficult in many schools across the country for a recruiter to talk about the opportunities available in the military.

"As General Odierno alluded to, even though we're drawing down the size of the Army, there still is a requirement to bring in new young men and women, because folks are going to retire, they're going to leave the military and we still have to fill the ranks," he said.

For this reason, said Mann, there's still going to be a need for a connection with America and engagement with civic leaders will be critical far into the future.

When one of the civilian leaders suggested that veterans also get involved, Mann said it was a great idea.

"That was just right on the mark and that would be very helpful, because as General Odierno alluded to, right now the rate is above the national average for unemployment among veterans." Mann said. "So it's important that we find every opportunity, every venue to give these folks that are returning, who have served their country give them every opportunity to reconnect with the civilian population."


Sadiqa N. Reynolds, chief of Community Building, with the Office of the Mayor of Louisville, Ky., and invited by Col. Scott Dingle of the Medical Recruitment Command, said she thinks it's great that Odierno brought up the Army's commitment to diversity.

Reynolds oversees the employees who operate the city's parks, public health and wellness programs, animal services, housing and family services programs, Human Relations Commission, libraries and zoos. Reynolds also serves as the liaison for arts and cultural attractions in the city, as well as co-chairs the Mayor's Compassion Initiative.

"I also told him that Soldiers need to understand how to write a resume that translates into words that Human Resource people in the corporate world can understand," Reynolds said.

Another leader in the community, invited to this meeting by the Medical Recruitment Command, was Charlie Johnson because of his knowledge of work in the community, at colleges and in philanthropy. Over the years he's given millions of dollars to colleges and medical centers.

He suggested to Odierno there should be more lobbying groups to assist in goals of reaching out to communities.

After three years at the University of Louisville where he was all-conference player, Johnson was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in 1965, later playing for the Baltimore Colts.

Johnson went on to become a successful businessman, hauling everything from steel and turbines to heavy trucks.

Since selling that business and starting others, which currently includes Immanuel Realty, Johnson has donated millions of dollars to charities and universities.