December 08, 2017 04:35 PM
The Minnesota National Guard is nationally recognized as the most diverse guard force in the country. Just under 2,000 of its 13,000 soldiers are men and women of color.
However, new Department of Defense policies that call for stricter background checks could make it harder for the Minnesota National Guard to continue to diversify.
In October, the defense department ended a recruiting program called Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest, or MAVNI. President George W. Bush created MAVNI is 2001 in hopes to attract foreign language speakers.
Because of MAVNI, the Minnesota National Guard has been able to recruit people like Samia Mousa. Mousa is one of the few women in the Minnesota National Guard who wears a hijab with her uniform.
"I remember growing up and people would say, 'you're not American', and I'd say, 'I am American, I was born here,'" she said.
Mousa believes she was born to serve her country.
"No matter who they were, their background, they were a soldier first," she said. "I could do that, I could be a soldier."
Minnesota National Guard Lt. Col. Jeffery Merricks, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, said Mousa is one of the many who has helped change the face of the Minnesota National Guard.
"We are diversifying our force," he said. "The face of Minnesota is changing, our demographics are becoming more diverse as a state, we have to be able to represent our state."
Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen echoed Merricks about the importance of recruiting a diverse force.
"We have an incredibly long tradition, the entire history of our military has included non-citizens," he said. "If we are not reflecting our community, we are going to have a hard time accomplishing our mission."
The repeal of MAVNI could hamper the guard's ability to recruit green card holders due to stricter background checks. According to the National Guard, there are 170 Green Card holders in the Minnesota National Guard.
Jensen said replacement policies are currently a work in progress.
"I can understand the idea that we need to tighten investigations, but we certainly should not block non-U.S. citizens from joining the military," he said.
While recruitment policies may be in jeopardy, Mousa is continuing to work with the National Guard to recruit new guardsmen from immigrant communities.
Updated: December 08, 2017 04:35 PM
Created: November 21, 2017 08:18 PM
Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company