WASHINGTON WATCH: U.S. Army Offers Ways To Develop STEM Skills With New Initiative (VIDEO) | Roland Martin Reports

WASHINGTON WATCH: U.S. Army Offers Ways To Develop STEM Skills With New Initiative (VIDEO)

Unemployment numbers for African-Americans continue to be well above those of our white counterparts. What’s amazing is the hundreds of thousands of technical jobs that go unfilled every year. Unless we develop skills in what’s called STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — we will continue to fall behind unless we increase those numbers.

The U.S. Army is offering ways to develop those STEM skills. Here to discuss that is, Lieutenant Colonel Myles B. Caggins.

MR. MARTIN:  Welcome back.

Unemployment numbers for African-Americans continue to be well above those of our white counterparts.  What’s amazing is the hundreds of thousands of technical jobs that go unfilled every year.  Unless we develop skills in what’s called STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – we will continue to fall behind unless we increase those numbers.

The U.S. Army is offering ways to develop those STEM skills.  Here to discuss that is, Lieutenant Colonel Myles B. Caggins.

Myles, welcome to the show.

LT. COL. MYLES CAGGINS, III:  Good to be here, Roland.

MR. MARTIN:  Now, when you talk about STEM technology, I mean this has been the constant focus of American politicians over the last three or four years.  Former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, when she came on the show, she often talked about that.

And so how is the Army trying to help drive that – because that’s really where we’re going in terms of the jobs over the next generation?

LT. COL. CAGGINS:  Well, Roland, I’m glad to be here and represent the Army today.

The Army is heavily involved in STEM from the research aspects all the way to employing technologies on the battlefield and around the world.  The Army feels that the more we invest in STEM and the better our personnel are, the less we need and the more effective we’ll be able to accomplish our missions.  And our missions in the Army are the same as missions that you see in [the] civilian world, other than our combat operations.

MR. MARTIN:  So, you have someone out there who is focused on this right now in high school, and they’re saying, “Look, I want to be in a position for those well-paying jobs later.”  How does the Army operate, in essence, as a bridge, if you will, for those kind[s] of individuals?

LT. COL. CAGGINS:  Well, for young people there’re a ton of opportunities in STEM fields and other career fields in the Army.  So, the first thing [is] the Army wants you to be educated.  We have nearly 100 percent of our enlisted soldiers and all of our officers are high school graduates.  Of course, our officers are also college graduates, too.  So, education is really, really important to what we do.

We’re using computers in our tanks.  It’s not just big guns that you push a button on.  These are highly technical machines.  Flying a helicopter is not as simple as driving a car.  You have to learn aeronautics.  You have to be very well-versed in science and math for many, many fields in the Army; and the Army wants to fund the education for those who are ready for the challenge.

MR. MARTIN:  I was at [the] Essence Music Festival several years ago –

LT. COL. CAGGINS:  Yes.

MR. MARTIN:  — and Bill Cosby was onstage, and he made a comment where he said, “If you don’t get your education, you’re not going to be left with any options except the military.”

I was standing next to a two-star general who bristled at that, because he said what members of the military are trying to get people to understand is that the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force – whatever – should not be seen as the last alternative, if you will, for somebody who can’t go to college, who can’t get a job.

How do you deal with that, because that still is a mindset that some folks have?

LT. COL. CAGGINS:  With all respect to Bill Cosby and the great things he’s accomplished, and him being a leader in our community, but offer a counter narrative.  The Army is a great place for people to come to get an education.  I started out as a high school graduate from public schools in Houston, Texas, went off to Hampton University –

MR. MARTIN:  What school?

LT. COL. CAGGINS:  — Eisenhower High School, Houston –

MR. MARTIN:  Okay.

LT. COL. CAGGINS:  — Texas.

MR. MARTIN:  It’s okay.

LT. COL. CAGGINS:  Okay.

MR. MARTIN:  All right.

LT. COL. CAGGINS:  Went off to Hampton University.  The Army paid for it.  I paid not a dime in tuition.  [A] few years later, the Army had an opportunity for me to go to graduate school at Georgetown.  I paid not a dime of tuition.

I have some friends to this day who are my peers in [their] mid- to upper 30s who are still paying off student loans.  Sounds like the Army’s a good place to start.

Oh, by the way, there’re a number of other benefits.  One of them is that you get leadership opportunities that you can never have outside of military organizations, and this prepares a lot of people for life later on as executives in business, or running their own nonprofits.  If you look in the résumés of many people today who are leading our corporations, there’s oftentimes a foundation that started in the military.

MR. MARTIN:  Are you seeing, with the economy where it stands right now, an influx of people who are seeing the Army as an alternative as relates to finding employment and looking to take advantage of those opportunities?

LT. COL. CAGGINS:  Well, it is.  We’ve done really well with recruiting in the past few years, partially as a result of the economy, and the benefit of that for us is we get to choose the best of the applicants.  When the people walk into the recruiter’s office, now we’re making a choice to choose the top because we want the top people to do our important missions around the world.

MR. MARTIN:  Well, look, we certainly appreciate it.  We’ve had multiple discussions on “Washington Watch” with members of the military about the various opportunities, and so for us, this is an opportunity to give people more information as they begin to make those various choices – because we know, with this being late in the year, you’ve got young men and women who have graduated from high school, who are making the decision whether they want to go to a college or choose some other alternative.

And so we appreciate it.  Thanks a lot.

LT. COL. CAGGINS:  Well, thanks.  And I encourage everybody to go to GoArmy.com, find out more about opportunities as an officer, or as an enlisted soldier.  And, perhaps, you want to be a part of something bigger [than] yourself out there, if you’re a young person, and the Army could be a place for them.

MR. MARTIN:  All right.  We appreciate it. Thanks a bunch.

And Eisenhower was okay, but it wasn’t Yates High School.

LT. COL. CAGGINS:  [Chuckles.]  Aw, come on, now!  [Chuckles.]