PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The National Naval Officers Association held its 46th Annual Symposium on Wednesday in Downtown Portsmouth.
This year’s theme was “Embracing Diversity to Strengthen the Sea Services.”
Retired Navy Captain Roosevelt Wright Jr, NNOA’s historian, says the organization was founded in the 1970s as the Naval Academy sought to improve diversity in the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
“Our DNA has been one of an incredible contribution that our families have done for defense and protection of the United States of America but we were never really liked,” Wright said about African Americans who served.
Wright says that African Americans fought in every American war but haven’t also gotten deserved respect.
Wright says there aren’t many minority officers, but this organization helps give them the resources they need to become and stay officers, according to Wright.
Congressman Bobby Scott spoke to members of the group about the importance education plays in recruiting and retaining diverse officers.
“You can’t have an effective military if the officers don’t reflect the same demographics that they’re trying to command,” he said.
Scott spoke about education and how Affirmative Action, which is an issue Congress discusses, can help improve diversity.
“There are a lot of areas in America where diversity is not happening. You need a little push to make that happen. In the military, the officer rank is not nearly as diverse as the enlisted rank. With a little effort, you can improve that. You can improve that with better education, opportunity, outreach,” he said.
The NNOA symposium ends on August 9.