``Be all you can be,'' say ads for America's armed forces. Young blacks answering that call are finding opportunities to succeed there that can continue, even after they return to civilian life. A report, titled the ``Military Service Effects for Minority Youth,'' looking at 15 years of America's all-volunteer armed forces, concludes that: (1) minority youths have ``equal opportunity in the armed forces with respect to pay, promotion, career opportunity, and job satisfaction;'' (2) as veterans they are successful in the civilian labor market; but (3) they tend to have jobs in the military that have a lower income potential in civilian life.
Heading up the study were Robert L. Phillips of Texas Tech University and Paul J. Andrisani and Thomas N. Daymont of Temple University.
``Young blacks join the military services because they feel they will have more opportunity to advance,'' Professor Andrisani says. ``Our research also reports they are better prepared than nonmilitary blacks to join the civilian work force after discharge....''
``Much of what critics said of the volunteer services was true in its early years,'' says Dr. Phillips, a retired Army colonel, who served as the Pentagon's top military recruiter. Many blacks used to enlist as ``an alternative to living without a job and hanging out in the streets. Many had no high school diplomas.''
Early on, the voluntary forces failed to attract desirable young men, black and white, he says. As recently as 1980, half the recruits were dropouts. By 1982, 75 percent were high school graduates.
As chief recruiter Phillips played a key role in refining the services' appeal. ``We redesigned our personnel policies to attract quality recruits.'' Reforms included incentives like $18,000 a year for up to four years in college and a commission through the Reserve Officers Training Corps.
By 1986, recruits were 95 percent high school graduates, 65 percent in the upper half of their class.
The incentives cut the black attrition rate. More blacks reenlist for a second tour (50 percent more) and for career service (8 percent) than do whites, the study shows.
But black veterans, although they earn more than black nonveterans, still lag behind white veterans in civilian employment and pay, the report says.
Why do black military men make better civilians after discharge?
``Military discipline makes them job ready,'' Phillips says. ``They no longer fall short because of lack of education, poor family atmosphere, and a lack of a sense of responsibility. And they have a sense of the male presence.''
The military stresses affirmative action, counseling, and job placement for minority servicemen upon discharge, Andrisani says. ``Yet there is more work to be done if the military is to do all it can do for the black serviceman,'' he adds.