The Navy, concerned about the scarcity of minorities in its officer ranks, has joined forces with a national Latino organization to counsel possible candidates for its officer training programs.
Officials from the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the Navy announced the effort Thursday at the Long Beach Naval Station.
The program, which is designed to boost the number of minorities at the U.S. Naval Academy and in other officer candidacy programs, will attempt to encourage minority youths in 10 states, including California, to apply to Annapolis or college Naval Reserve Officers' Training Corps programs, then aid them in their efforts.
Counselors at the Latino group's 12 regional service centers, including the Southern California chapter based in Pomona, have been given recruitment pamphlets and other materials describing NROTC and the academy. LULAC's clients are primarily Latino, though it works with all disadvantaged people.
The Pomona center, which offers economic aid and scholarships to all disadvantaged youths, will promote the program in high schools throughout Southern California.
Interested students will be evaluated by Navy recruiters through tests and other means to determine their eligibility for officer-training programs. Those high school students found acceptable will be encouraged to take the proper math and science courses needed for entrance into the college officer-training programs. Students must have a score above 950 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test, or SAT, to be eligible for the program.
In addition, the recruiters and LULAC counselors will provide assistance to students in completing applications for entrance to any of the officer-training programs.
"This will help establish a pipeline for these teen-agers to apply through the LULAC centers," said Ramon Cruz, LULAC state education committee chairman.
Officials from the Navy and the LULAC National Educational Service Centers Inc., which had agreed in June, 1984, to undertake the program, announced the details Thursday.
Currently, 1.2% of the Navy's 70,000 officers are Latino, while about 3% are black. More than 6% of the country's population is Latino and 11% is black.
Capt. C. J. Bustamante, a Navy recruitment officer, said the program is currently in the trial stages and that no goals have been set.
"If we only end up with two kids because of this program, I'd still be pleased," Bustamante said, adding that Navy officials hope the program will help attract increasing numbers of minority youths to the service.
"What we're trying to do is make the Navy's officer corps representative of national demographic trends," he said.
Bustamante said the effort will supplement the service's traditional officer recruitment programs, which solicit prospective candidates based on college entrance exam scores.
In addition, Navy recruiters are eager to expand the program to target other minority groups, particularly blacks. Bustamante said the Navy has contacted the NAACP and other minority organizations about taking part in a similar recruitment effort.
Bustamante sent letters in November to the leaders of the 12 LULAC service centers explaining the objectives of the effort, which will attempt to "identify, assist and encourage Hispanic college-bound students" to consider entering one of the officer-training programs.
Cruz said the effort should be particularly effective in Southern California, which has a large Latino population.
"If there's one center in the country where there should be great interest to get this off the ground, it's here," Cruz said.
In addition, high schools in the Long Beach area are expected to take great interest in the program because of the city's tradition as a Navy town, said Cruz, a Long Beach resident.