Handed Over three Instances by the Marines, a Black Colonel Is Being Promoted to Basic
WASHINGTON – The Marine Corps is promoting Col. Anthony Henderson, a battle-hardened Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, to brigadier general, a move that opens the door to service, potentially promoting an African American to the highest ranks.
The Marine Corps, bypassing Colonel Henderson for four years, placed him on a highly selective list of nine Colonels to be awarded a coveted star denoting general rank status – brigadier general. The list, signed by President Biden, arrived at the Senate Armed Forces Committee on Wednesday evening to initiate the necessary verification process, according to the committee’s website.
Ordinarily, such promotions would not attract much attention. But Colonel Henderson is a Black with experience as a combat commander in a service – the Marines – who in its 245-year history has never had a four-star officer who was not white. And even the one-, two-, and three-star officer positions in the Marine Corps are predominantly white and male – especially those in the combat specialties that feed the four-star ranks.
If Colonel Henderson is approved by the Senate, he’ll become the rare black general with the shot to get all the way to the top.
“Tony Henderson has the potential to be in command of the Marine Corps,” said retired Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Bailey, who was the first black man to command the First Marine Division beyond what is required from 2011-2013. It’s overdue. “
Colonel Henderson, 53, has been handed over as brigadier general three times. In 2019, Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer even added a handwritten recommendation to Col. Henderson’s candidacy.
But each time the doctoral committee declined and instead passed on slates, which consisted mostly of white men.
Current and former Marines pointed to Colonel Henderson’s tendency to voice his opinion to explain why he has been overlooked in the past, but these are traits that have not disqualified White Navy colonels. The Marine Corps’ decision to add Colonel Henderson to its brigadier generals list followed a career review by the New York Times.
Critics of the Marine Corps’ handling of its black officers say the service has a racial problem based on decades of resistance to change.
The Marines have long had a reputation for being the toughest force in the nation, but it remains an institution where a handful of white men command 185,000 white, African-American, Hispanic, and Asian men and women.
Since the Corps first began serving African American troops in 1942, the last military service, only 25 have received the rank of general in any form. No one made it to the top four-star rank, an honor the Marines have only given white men – 72 of them.
Six African American earned the lieutenant general or three stars. The rest got a star or two, mostly in areas like logistics, transportation and communications, specialties that, unlike combat weapons, rarely lead to the highest leadership.
News that Colonel Henderson, along with another Black Marine – Col. Ahmed T. Williamson, the Military Assistant to the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps – had made the cut for the Brigadier General illuminated the phone and text lines of the Black Marines operating in the world was stationed nearby.
The African American Marines were delighted with Colonel Williamson, whose background is communications, but added that they were excited for Colonel Henderson as he came from the background of combat weapons that can lead to four stars.
However, some also voiced their anger that the black officers in the corps were moving so slowly.
“Tony Henderson should have been selected last year,” said Milton D. Whitfield Sr., a retired Marine rifle sergeant who served 21 years. “Or the year before. Or the year before. He’s the one the Marine Corps wants up there – someone who tells the truth to power. “
Colonel Henderson declined to be interviewed for the Times article last August and had not been reached for comment Thursday morning. His promotion has already sparked some discussions among members of the Marine Corps that the attention drawn by the Times article prompted a promotion process to finalize his nomination.
But both black and white Marines who have worked with him say such speculation ignores one fact: Colonel Henderson, who has a law degree from the Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, La., And has several tours in Iraq as well graduated in Afghanistan is, in the words of Mr. Spencer, the former Secretary of the Navy, before a 2019 promotion committee, “an eminently qualified Marine we need now as a BG”.
Colonel Henderson led the Marines through intense fighting in the Garmsir district known as the Jugroom Fort in Afghanistan in 2008. Marines commanded by Colonel Henderson during those violent days and nights say he was noticed like an action figure.
A story about Colonel Henderson from that time has already become legend among the Marines who fought alongside him in Garmsir.
You remember the time when Colonel Henderson, after losing radio contact, climbed the top of a local house to look for his Marines, drew fire from the Taliban, and did a “battle roll” from the roof on a rocket propulsion system dodging grenade, lands on his feet on the ground. This story electrified and retold Marines fighting in Afghanistan at the time.