Lt. Gen. Michael Langley is set to become the first Black general to achieve one of the highest ranks of the U.S. military.
The Senate Armed Services Committee held a confirmation hearing on Thursday for Langley, who has served in the U.S. Marine Corps for more than 35 years. Langley is nominated to be the commander of U.S. Africa Command, which oversees the country’s military presence in Africa. If confirmed by the Senate, he will be the first Black four-star general in the Marines’ 246-year history.
“It is a great honor to be the President’s nominee to lead U.S. AFRICOM,” Langley said at Thursday’s confirmation hearing. “I’m grateful to the trust and confidence extended by him. I am enthusiastic to engage across the whole government to faithfully execute the policies and orders of the President and the Secretary of Defense.”
A native of Shreveport, Louisiana, and the son of a U.S. Air Force veteran, Langley has been in service with the Marine Corps since 1985, commanding at every level of the branch across multiple continents, according to NPR. He graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington and holds several advanced degrees, including a masters in National Security Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College, as well as a masters in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College.
As of last year, Langley was one of only six Black generals in the Marine Corps, Stars and Stripes reported. According to research by the Council on Foreign Relations, high-ranking military leaders are more than 80 percent white. Additionally, a CNN review of data from the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs “reveals the stark reality that Black service members are less likely to become officers and, as a result, are more likely to be seriously injured serving their country than their white colleagues.”
Langley is currently serving as commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command. He recently served as commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa, after his predecessor, Maj. Gen. Stephen Neary, was removed “amid allegations of using a racial slur for African Americans in front of troops.”
Despite the long-standing issue of diversity and racial disparities in the military, Langley said adversity for him has been “few and far between.”
“Ninety-nine percent of my experiences coming up through the ranks have been positive ones that can be characterized as opportunities to excel, to gain success,” Langley told Stars and Stripes in a profile last year. “As far as adversity, it came in moments. They were always learning experiences to me.”