Randell Beamon III, a student at the Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, spent the last three summers interning at legendary high-tech leader Motorola, Inc. After three summers of paying his dues, Beamon would be on track for a full-time position at Motorola when he graduates in June 2001 with his master's degree in accounting. And in today's competitive marketplace for experienced and qualified workers, Motorola likely will roll out the red carpet to get him. But despite such a rosy scenario that would leave other graduating students envious, Beamon isn't sure what he's going to do. There's another "company" out there that is captivating his interest as well -- the military. Yes, the nation's Armed Forces.
Like many other African-American college students today, Beamon is as intrigued with serving his country through the military as he is with joining a major corporation like Motorola. What is clear is that Beamon, given his scholarship, talent and leadership skills, is officer material. At SIU-C, Beamon has been campus president of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., and president of The Black Graduate Student Association (BGSA). He says he inspires his fraternity brethren to become positive role models through high academic achievement and community service -- some of the very same attributes military officers instill in subordinates. "I have always looked at the military as a real option. Becoming a military officer is definitely a possibility for me," Beamon says. "Pride in who I work for, along with the pride of belonging to the best, makes both Motorola and the military my two serious choices at this time."
In considering career choices, many African Americans, women and other minorities in the Class of 2001 increasingly are looking at what the Armed Services have to offer them. One conclusion they are reaching is that today's military is not the same one that their fathers and grandfathers served in. Over the last 20 years, representation of racial minorities and women among active duty commissioned officers has more than doubled -- from 7 percent to 15.3 percent for minority officers and from 5.9 percent to 14.1 percent for women officers. Some 15,904 African-American officers are now serving in the military.
Former Clinton Administration Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen said more minorities and women in history are deciding to become commissioned officers in the military because of the Department of Defense's commitment to equal opportunity. "The military services are second to no other institution in providing equal opportunity for all members," Cohen added. "We take great pride in the high standards that we have set. The bottom line is that every individual who joins America's military must have full confidence that he or she will be allowed to excel to the full extent of his or her abilities."
While starting military salaries can't compete with those in fields like engineering or computer sciences, the services do offer graduates a number of inducements -- backed by the full faith of the U.S. government. Annual starting salaries for commissioned officers are about $23,972, plus $6,613 for food and housing for a total of $30,585. Officers with spouses and children receive additional pay. Officers also receive free medical and dental benefits, 30 days paid annual vacation and 8-10 days paid holidays. Of interest to officers considering higher education opportunities, the military provided 75 percent college tuition assistance and defers repayment of student loans for six months.
Derek Campbell, a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, and now an active duty Marines Corps captain assigned to Washington, D.C., states the educational benefits granted by the military can't be underestimated. Campbell has attended flight school in Pensacola, Fla., and received extensive training in the intelligence field, including cryptologic communications. …