When President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981 in February 1948, he officially ended segregation in the military. Though the change during that time was focused on putting black servicemembers on the same footing as their white comrades, it eventually opened the door of equal opportunity for all, regardless of race, gender, religion and culture.
Cavalrymen and pilots such as the Buffalo Soldiers and Tuskegee Airmen paved the way for such diversity, said Mullen, who noted he has spent time with retired members from each legacy. “They’re great, great individuals who really blazed trails,” the chairman said.
The decision to integrate U.S. forces “has made a huge difference in the quality of our armed forces and the representational aspects of all our ethnic backgrounds in our military today,” the admiral said. “[Integration] is a great strength, not just for our military, but for our nation.”
However, Mullen acknowledged, the military still has work to do to fully integrate its force, he said.
“We need to keep focusing on [integration] and keep developing leaders from all backgrounds that individuals can look up to,” he said.