Proactively Ethnic: U.S. Army Program Takes a Step in the Right Direction

Johanna Kinsley
Yet again, real-world examples pop up on the importance and value of ethnic recruitment efforts. Slowly but surely, more attention is being paid to specialized markets, but many times, multicultural outreach gets placed on the backburner and its need only gets recognized in reaction to a crisis or with remaining budgets.
I came across an article a little over a week ago about a specific U.S. Army program, Mavni (Military Accessions Vital to National Interest), that enlists immigrants here on temporary visas. Those who are promising recruits can become citizens in as short as a month—extremely favorable compared to the potential decade-or-more wait the old fashioned way.

Mavni recruits are desired for their language and medical skills. The language component especially is extremely critical for those regions in which you can find the U.S. forces. That means immigrants skilled in Arabic, Urdu and Pashto are a hot commodity.

Naomi Verdugo, an Army recruiting official, spoke about the “extraordinarily high” proficiency of these immigrants recruited for their language skills. “We send people to language school, but it is tough to get a non-native speaker to the level of these folks,” she said.

Many immigrants, even those who already have their U.S. citizenship, have this level of proficiency.  Even immigrants who have been here for years do not lose the language knowledge they brought from overseas. Their heritage, culture, and speech make up an identity rarely lost to acclimation; and these groups value when outreach efforts acknowledge that.

The Mavni program, although wildly successful, is on hold for a required Pentagon review.  With all the positive feedback, I’m sure this review is a matter of formality and the program will be up and running again shortly. However, the article alludes to the fact that this block may have been “slowed by the top-to-bottom examination of security procedures after the shooting rampage in November at Fort Hood, Texas, in which an Army psychiatrist, Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, has been charged.”

Such reasoning for blocking this program may offend or confuse the audience they actually intend to attract. It brings up the point that cultural awareness, sensitivity and savvy are critical for intra-government workings as well as outside efforts.

The Mavni program’s immigrant recruitment should be recognized across all government sectors. These recruits clearly have language expertise and, in light of continuing events post 9/11, their cultural understanding is needed and cherished. And if citizenship is a hiring criteria, (which is the case for most government jobs) second or third generation ethnic groups similarly perform at this high level. And whether they’re immigrants or children of immigrants, most have an innate sense of civic duty and a unique appreciation for the U.S.—this goes for immigrants all over the globe.

The take-away is this: Just as we learn that such recruits are so valuable, the government should learn that efforts are advantageous. Multicultural and ethnic outreach should stop being reactive and instead be proactive—having the correct workforce now will eliminate the scramble if problems arise.

Johanna Kinsley
Allied Media Corp.

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