(Photo: US Gov)
On July 1, Maj. Gen. Ronald Bailey assumed command of the 1st Marine Division based in Camp Pendleton, California. Bailey is the first African-American to command the oldest, largest and most decorated division in the United States Marine Corps. It has a force of 19,000 combat-ready men and women. See a gallery from Maj. Gen. Ronald Bailey’s induction ceremony.
In 1977, Bailey received his commission as a second lieutenant, and most recently commanded the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego/Western Recruiting Region.
Among the attendees were former Marines that belong to the Montford Point Marine Assn. the group celebrates the legacy of the boot camp in North Carolina where about 20,000 Black recruits were trained during segregation, from 1942 to 1949.
One Montford veteran told a Los Angeles Times reporter "When I entered the Marine Corps, we didn't even have anyone ever reach the rank of staff sergeant. To now have a man commanding a division truly shows that America is a place where you can come from anywhere and reach the top."
In 2008, the Department of Defense reported that African-Americans constituted just less than 5.6 percent of the 923 general officers and 9 percent of all officers while they comprised 17% of the total force.
There may be few African-American general officers, but they lead major forces. The Commanding General of U.S. forces in Iraq is General Lloyd J. Austin III. The Operations Director of Allied Joint Force Command Headquarters-Brunssum is U.S. Army Major General Byron S. Bagby. In the Navy, Rear Admiral Julius S. Caesar is the Vice Director, Joint Concept Development & Experimentation, U.S. Joint Forces Command.