The Senate voted this week to promote Lt. Gen. Michael E. Langley to four-star general, making him the first Black man to receive the distinction in the military branch’s 246-year history.
The Marine Corps, a force with more than 170,000 active-duty members, announced Tuesday that Langley will publicly receive the promotion, which the Senate approved Monday, at a ceremony Saturday in Washington, D.C., after which he will command all U.S. military forces in Africa, overseeing about 6,000 troops.
President Joe Biden nominated Langley, who was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1985, to lead U.S. Africa Command in June. At a confirmation hearing in late July, Langley told senators he agreed that stemming Russia’s growing influence in turbulent parts of Africa will be a priority. Senators told Langley that the post will entail not only military prowess, but also a significant degree of diplomacy — a characterization he agreed with.
At the start of his term, Biden also successfully pushed through the nomination of Lloyd Austin, the first Black defense secretary.
A July 2021 diversity, equity and inclusion report from Lt. Gen. David Ottignon and Brig. Gen. Jason Woodworth noted that minority Marines are overrepresented in support occupational specialties, which are more traditional career-oriented jobs within the military and thus less likely to lead to leadership positions. Average five-year promotion rates, for example, are higher in every leadership category for white Marines than for Black Marines.
“It is a critical part of the conversation — to know that real examples of racial and gender bias exist in our Corps — 75 plus years after the Service was integrated,” the report said.
To address the disparity, the report recommended developing a systematic recruiting strategy to increase diversity, among other reforms.
“We have not always gotten it right, but there is evidence in our personnel data — and lived experience of many minority Marines — that shows we are improving, but that we still have more to do,” the report said.