An unofficial poll on Twitter conducted by the commander of Army Training and Doctrine Command shows that an overwhelming majority of participants think the Army should purge official photos from the promotion board process.
The poll comes less than a week after Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced steps to eradicate racism in the ranks, which can be fueled by unconscious bias that puts minority service members at a disadvantage.
Esper ordered the creation of a new Defense Board on Diversity and Inclusion, charged with creating a plan to increase racial diversity in the force. The move comes as the entire country wrestles with ways to change in the aftermath of nationwide civil unrest to protest the May 25 death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after being taken into custody by Minneapolis police.
As a more immediate solution, Esper floated the idea of removing professional photos as a requirement in promotion boards and schools, a concept he pushed for when he served as Army secretary.
To that end, Lt. Gen. Ted Martin, deputy commander of Army Training and Doctrine Command, launched a poll on Twitter Tuesday, asking, "Should official photographs be eliminated from promotion boards?"
On Wednesday, with less than 24 hours left to vote, more than 75% of the 3,255 votes cast favored eliminating official photos from the process. A little more than 24% voted to keep them.
The post also generated a strong discussion on the subject.
"If we are going to remove them for the reason the SECDEF says, then remove all bias from the [Selective Retention Bonus program] to include race and gender," Army Command Sgt. Maj. Tommy P. Fitzwater, senior enlisted leader for the 307th Brigade Support Battalion out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, wrote. "Let their records stand alone."
Army Reserve Maj. Gen. Tammy Smith, military assistant to the assistant secretary of the Army (Manpower and Reserve Affairs) for Quality of Life tweeted, "Nothing in a photo reveals talent."
One poster asked whether the Army could "sanitize all the identifying info on board packets? Things like race, name, gender etc. Make it purely based off data and evals."
Martin answered by saying, "That was actually going to be the next vote -- trying out some ideas as I believe now is the time to STRIKE for positive, MEANINGFUL change."
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.