Marines Will Finally Have Their First Black Four-Star General

Then U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Michael E. Langley.
Then U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Michael E. Langley has his family promote him after the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade relinquishment of command ceremony on Camp Lejeune, N.C., May 23, 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tanner Seims)

The Marine Corps announced that Lt. Gen. Michael Langley has been confirmed to head U.S. Africa Command and will be promoted to the rank of general in a ceremony Saturday. Langley will be the first Black Marine to hold the rank in the 246-year history of the branch.

Langley will take command of AFRICOM, based in Stuttgart, Germany, on Aug. 9, where he will oversee all American military forces stationed in Africa, according to a statement from the command. President Joe Biden nominated him for the job in June.

According to the Marine Corps, Langley, a native of Shreveport, Louisiana, commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1985 as an artillery officer. He "has commanded Marines at every level from platoon to regiment, serving in Okinawa, Japan and Afghanistan," the service said.

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With Langley's promotion, the Marine Corps becomes one of the last branches to promote a Black service member to the highest rank in the military. The newly formed Space Force has not yet promoted a Black Guardian into a top-level position.

The first Black service member to reach the four-star rank was Daniel James Jr., an aviator and officer in the Air Force, in 1975. While holding that rank, James commanded North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, according to his obituary in The New York Times.

The next branch to advance an African-American to four-stars was the Army, with the promotion of Gen. Roscoe Robinson Jr. in 1982. The Navy promoted Joseph Paul Reason to four-star admiral in 1996.

The first Black woman to achieve the four-star rank was the Navy's Adm. Michelle Howard, who was promoted and appointed as vice chief of naval operations -- the second-highest ranking officer in the Navy -- in 2014.

The Marine Corps has a history of being last to accommodate African Americans. Its own history page notes that a presidential order "forced the Corps, despite objections from its leadership, to begin recruiting African American Marines in 1942." A timeline from the National Museum of the Marine Corps also notes that the service first promoted an African American to a one-star general rank in 1979, four years after James put on his fourth star in the Air Force.

Langley, who was promoted to the three-star rank only last year, is currently serving as the head of Marine Forces Northern Command and commander of Fleet Marine Force Atlantic. He has previously led Marine Forces Europe and Africa.

-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.

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