Tag Archives: U.S. Army

African Americans in the U.S. Army

By Brig. Gen Paul E. Owen, Commander, Southwestern Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

February is Black History Month across the Nation. Since 1976, the President has officially designated February as the time for this annual observance, which dates back to the early 1900s. In 1926, it was scheduled for the second week in February to coincide with the birthdates of President Abraham Lincoln and African American orator and statesman Frederick Douglass.

The theme for 2018 is “African Americans in Times of War,” commemorating the centennial of the end of the First World War in 1918, and highlighting the service and sacrifice of African Americans during wartime, from the Revolutionary War to present.

For Army soldiers and civilians, the theme this year has a special significance, as we honor those African Americans who have served so bravely in the defense of our Nation. We stand in the shadows of the courage and devotion to duty of African American soldiers such as the slaves who joined the Continental Army in exchange for the promise of freedom; the Buffalo Soldiers; the Tuskegee Airmen; the “Triple Nickels,” the all-black airborne unit in World War II, and so many others.

In fact, more than 350,000   African Americans served in segregated units during World War I, mostly as support troops. About 125,000 served overseas in World War II, leading President Harry S. Truman to desegregate the military in 1948. Today more than 195,000 African Americans—about 19 percent– serve in the Army’s Total Force. They serve in almost every specialty and at every level. Additionally, almost 40,000 Department of the Army civilians are African American. Within USACE, African Americans number more than 3000, or about 10 percent of the USACE workforce.

The month is about much more than statistics and numbers, however. It is about our history as a Nation, our values as Americans, and the outstanding contributions of those who often overcame tremendous odds to succeed. It is also about our future, as we seek to increase the numbers of African Americans in STEM pathways and careers to help ensure the continued prosperity and success of our Nation.

I encourage each of you to learn more about the African American heritage that helped shape our country. Take some time to study and reflect on those who have served our Army and our Nation with great honor and distinction, building a legacy of courage that surely will inspire future generations.


Corps’ Southwestern Division commander, Paul E. Owen, confirmed for brigadier general

DALLAS—Colonel Paul E. Owen, the Commander and Division Engineer of the Southwestern Division,  U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, was confirmed for promotion to the grade of brigadier general by the United States Senate.   The promotion date is yet to be determined, but it is normally a few months after Senate confirmation.

Owen took command of the Southwestern Division on June 29, 2017.  Shortly after taking command, he led the Corps’ response to Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

Prior to that time, he served as the Chief of Staff, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Washington, DC, beginning in August 2016.

The Southwestern Division, which is headquartered in Dallas, is one of nine Corps of Engineers regional commands. With four District Offices in Little Rock, Arkansas; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Galveston and Fort Worth, Texas, it encompasses all or part of seven states, and covers some 2.3 million acres of public land and water. As the SWD Commander and Division Engineer, Owen oversees hundreds of water resources development and military design and construction projects that bring value to local communities, the Nation and the Nation’s warfighters.

Owen was commissioned as an Engineer Officer from the U.S. Military Academy in 1990, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering. He also holds a Master of Science in Engineering Management from Missouri University of Science and Technology, and a Master of Science in Nuclear Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Owen’s other assignments include commander, Transatlantic Afghanistan District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, headquartered at Bagram Airfield,  from June 2015 through July 2016.  Prior to that command, he served as commander of the New York District, headquartered in New York City, from September 2012 through May 2015, where he coordinated the Federal engineering efforts for FEMA during initial response actions after Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 and led the implementation of a $3 billion region-wide recovery program designed to reduce the risks of future coastal storms in New York and New Jersey.

He has held numerous other assignments, both stateside and overseas, including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Owen’s military awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, and Combat Action Badge. He is also a recipient of the Army Engineer Association Silver de Fleury Medal.

He is a native of St. Louis.