Nation Nation Now

Marine recruitment effort targets Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders

SAN DIEGO -- The Marine Corps on Wednesday began an advertising campaign targeted toward encouraging enlistment by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, two groups that make up only a tiny percentage of the Corps.

The campaign, entitled "A Warrior's Education," features videos on the Marines' Facebook page in which 1st Lt. David Pham and 1st Lt. David Oliver David extol the virtues and challenges of being a Marine officer, and link Marine discipline to the values they learned from their families.

Pham, 25, who spent some of his youth in Westminster, attended Georgia Tech and is now a combat veteran of Afghanistan, talks of his mother, a refugee from Vietnam.

"Growing up, I'd say my role model was my mother," he says. "You always respect your mother, you do the right thing. When you get to the Marine Corps, it's more a pride you wear."

From focus groups, Marine leadership learned that family honor and the concept of self-betterment through education are key values among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, according to Lt. Col. Raphael Hernandez, assistant chief of staff, advertising, for the Marine Corps Recruiting Command.

"They're strivers, they seek opportunity," Hernandez said of the two groups being targeted. "We want the influencers to know -- the mothers and fathers -- that their daughter or son can find success in the Marine Corps.''

Pham, on one of the videos, says his mother "is probably the hardest-working woman I've ever known. But she's just super humble about it."

Asian Americans account for 2.41% of the Marine Corps, Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, .65%. These percentages compare with 68.86% Anglo, 10.13% African American and 13.46% Latino.

Under Commandant Gen. James Amos, the Marine Corps has launched an effort to bring diversity to its enlisted and officer ranks. A multimedia campaign begun in November tried to break down the decades-old stereotype that the Corps is the domain of white men. The campaign, entitled "Fighting With Purpose," featured an African American infantry officer and a Latina aircraft pilot.

In its effort to enlist about 38,000 people a year, the Marine Corps has an annual advertising budget of between $90 million and $100 million.

The current campaign is timed to coincide with Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month -- although it may be extended and include links in other social media sites, Marine officials said.

"It's a good market to get into, it's quality folks," said Lt. Col. Jeff Smitherman, national director of operations at the recruiting command.

Marine officials hope that the "A Warrior's Education" campaign "is the beginning of a dialog" with the families of prospective enlistees in the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. As in other groups, parents, particularly mothers, can often be difficult to convince that it's a wise move for their son or daughter to enlist in a military service whose main mission is ground combat, officials said.

Even as the Marine Corps, like the other services, reduces the size of its ranks, recruiting efforts need to continue, Smitherman said. "We have to stay connected to the American populace."

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