David W. Andrews


While on active duty as an officer with the United States Air Force in early 1970’s I was able to participate in a University of Oklahoma study program that resulted in obtaining a Masters in Human Relations degree. This study program was an excellent opportunity for service members.

Following completion of the degree, I was assigned duty as Director of Social Services at Shaw AFB, South Carolina. This was a new venture directed by the Department of Defense for all branches of the military forces.

The objective of the Social Services initiative was to counter the negative impact of three problem areas involving military personnel and civilian employees of the Department of Defense. These three problems were drug abuse, race relations and equal opportunity. Effectiveness of all branches of the service was being greatly reduced because of these negative aspects of personnel relationships.

Since this was a very new and heretofore untried program, I was charged with the establishment and operation of the program at Shaw Air Force Base. The first step was to develop a document or manual to define exactly how the programs to combat these problems was to be implemented. The manual contained a brief review of the three areas and then presented an outline of the programs and procedures designed to help alleviate or at least reduce the negative impact of the three problems affecting military and civilian personnel.

Race relations was identified initially as the most prominent of the problems for personnel of a deep south military installation. Without presenting excessive detail concerning our approach to improving race relations, I will relate the basic concept of the program we developed. It was primarily an inter-active program constructed around the idea of small group discussions with a mixture of all ranks from private to Colonel, and all ethnic identifications from the personnel assigned to the air base. These group discussions were led by staff members trained to do this work. As a human relations degree holder, the task of training these staff members was my responsibility. The study, training and experiences I encountered at U. of Oklahoma well prepared me for this task.

As you might imagine, the group discussions were lively and very personal in many cases. Group members were quick to relate painful experiences they had encountered prior to and following enlistment into the military. Other members volunteered their own prejudices and history of relating to or avoiding persons from other ethnic heritages.

A rather crude example of the comments I recall from one particular group meeting will give you an idea of how realistic the discussions were. We typically asked, during the initial warm up for the session, what members had heard about the race relations training prior to attending. One rather high ranking sergeant replied, “ I heard that this training was conducted by a queer Major(officer which was me) a nigger(Black NCO- our staff’s ranking Master Sergeant) and a spic( our Chicano/Mexican staff member)”. We were the three principle leaders of the discussion groups. I think this illustrates that the group sessions got down to the nitty-gritty of the problem of race relations. I will report that the critiques requested of everyone following the eight hour sessions of training reflected a consensus of positive reactions to the information presented by the leaders and the views and opinions presented by participants.

Drug education was conducted in similar fashion with small group discussions. We also had qualified counselors to assist persons involved with drug abuse and also for dealing with complaints related to equal opportunity issues.

In summary, my Human Relations degree from the University of Oklahoma gave me a good background and equipped me for dealing with these three problem areas that continue to affect a large portion of the population of the United States, even to this day. Although I have long since retired from air force duty, I continue to benefit from the education and training in day to day relationships with my fellow men and women.

Sincerely, David W. Andrews