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February 2007

Commander's Perspective
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Diversity is the MSC springboard

Diversity: \ d-'ver-se-te\ noun. 1: the condition of being diverse, esp: the inclusion of diverse people (as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization <programs intended to promote ~ in schools>  2: an instance of being diverse <a ~ of opinion> 3: (added) Military Sealift Command core value.

Okay, so maybe it doesn't actually show the third definition in Webster's dictionary, but it's true, nonetheless. Diversity is the springboard of MSC, the basis of our success and one of our greatest strengths. It is a core value of this command and the Navy.

MSC is a microcosm of American society, and, for more than 230 years the melting pot that is the United States of America has been growing, improving and producing some of the best ideas the world has ever seen, fueled by the diverse cultures, ideas and belief systems of her more than 300 million citizens.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen recently noted, "As the world becomes more globalized and our nation more diverse, our ability to access, retain and employ the different talents and experiences resident in our country's population will increasingly impact mission success at home and abroad."

The same holds true for MSC. We need to find and recruit the best of the best as we continue to provide the logistics services absolutely essential to our war fighters and the federal government.

Diversity goes way beyond equal opportunity, race, gender or religion. It means understanding of how each of us brings different skills, talents and experience to the mission - and valuing those differences. That's what creates the environment of excellence and continuous improvement that Adm. Mullen advocates. And that's what MSC has been doing for the past 58 years.

Since our inception as the Military Sea Transportation Service in 1949, MSC has provided a host of innovative solutions to the myriad maritime challenges faced by our nation.

MSC's current workforce of more than 8,000 people around the globe includes people from all walks of life and all areas of expertise. Roughly 25 percent of us are African Americans. Another 25 percent are Asian/Pacific Islanders. Five percent are of Hispanic origin, one percent are Native Americans and 44 percent are of European descent.

As far as expertise goes, our skills range from administration to management, from operations to research and from science and technology to writing and speaking. We have leaders and thinkers and workers and observers. If there's anything that needs to be done in the maritime world, we have someone who knows how to do it, and several people to have an idea of how to do it better, faster and more cost-effectively.

Together, the people of MSC are the acknowledged leaders in maritime knowledge and capabilities for the Department of Defense and the federal government. Our relationship with the national maritime industry and all its transportation partners practically guarantees that we can find the best solution with the best value for any challenge that comes to us. And it's because of our diversity that we can find those solutions. We, as a command, can look at any issue from an amazing variety of viewpoints, offer an incredible number of possible solutions and mutually select the best one for the situation.

Statue honoring Carter G. Woodson
The residents of Huntington, W.Va., erected a statue honoring Carter G. Woodson, considered by many to be the father of Black History Month.

Diversity was seen by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a means of shaping America's future through non-violent protest. His ideals focused on the unity of people through education, another value held by MSC. Education is a means to fuller, richer lives for all of us.

As portions of our workforce begin to participate in the National Security Personnel System later this year, education will become ever more important for those who wish to move forward in their careers. The tools are in place for everyone's use. The more we learn, the better we are able to serve our customers and ourselves.

In January, we all celebrated the life and mission of Dr. King. This month, MSC and the nation celebrate the contributions of all our African-American citizens to the leadership, innovation and accomplishments we have witnessed throughout our history. Across the command, we'll set aside time in the coming days to recognize people such as noted scholar Carter G. Woodson, the founder of the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History. His work led to our celebration of Black History Month today.

Our school-age kids may also study the life of merchant mariner sea captain Paul Cuffe, an activist who in 1780 petitioned the Massachusetts state government to give voting rights to African and Native Americans or stop taxing them. His actions led directly to the section of the Massachusetts constitution that gave equal rights to all citizens of the state.

Every day, those of us who serve ashore drive past one of the most common items in our 21st century lives: a traffic signal. Garrett Augustus Morgan, born in Kentucky in 1877, invented and patented a traffic signal that featured automated STOP and GO signs. His invention was later improved by changing the mechanical arms to traffic lights. Morgan also invented and patented a gas mask that was used to protect U.S. soldiers from chlorine fumes during World War I.

The list goes on and is as far reaching as the abilities of MSC's people. Cultural diversity, a wide array of capabilities, a multiplicity of ways to look at any problem and a sea of experience: We are MSC.

Keep the faith,

R.D. Reilly Jr. signature

Robert D. Reilly Jr.
Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy
Commander, Military Sealift Command