DoD Official Receives ‘Role Model of the Year’ Award
By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service
ANAHEIM, Calif., Oct. 8, 2006 A senior Defense Department official was feted with the “Role Model of the Year” award at the 18th Annual Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference here Oct. 6.
Michael L. Dominguez, principal deputy under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, poses with his HENAAC “Role Model of the Year” award at the 18th Annual Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference in Anaheim, Calif., Oct. 6. HENAAC is an organization that promotes the achievements of Hispanics in engineering, science, technology and math, and works to encourage Hispanic students to pursue careers in these fields. Photo by Bill Steinbeck
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“I accept this honor for my father and all the men and women volunteering to serve in our armed forces in time of war,” Michael L. Dominguez, principal deputy under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told an audience during his acceptance speech at the HENAAC awards ceremony. “By honoring me you honor the military services that together comprise the greatest meritocracy in the world.”
Dominguez credited his father, Louis, with enabling him to succeed in life. Despite coming from a poor family in rural Texas, his father got a scholarship to Texas A&M University, and then joined the Air Force where he rose to the rank of colonel, Dominguez said. “The reason I’m here today is because he connected with an organization (Air Force) that would let him go as far as his talents would take him, regardless of where he came from,” he said.
HENAAC is an organization that promotes the achievements of Hispanics in engineering, science, technology and math, and works to encourage Hispanic students to pursue careers in these fields. This is the first year HENAAC gave out its “Role Model of the Year” – an award meant to highlight exemplary Hispanic leadership.
In January, Dominguez will grace the cover of HENAAC’s magazine, “Technica.”
Dominguez is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy. He has served as assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower and reserve affairs, and briefly as acting-secretary of the Air Force from Mar. 28, 2005 to Jul. 29, 2005. In his current job, he provides staff advice to the secretary of defense and deputy secretary of defense for total force management as it relates to manpower, force structure and readiness, and health and reserve component affairs.
Hispanics serving in uniform have made great contributions to the defense of the United States, and Dominguez said he was happy to work for their benefit. President Bush echoed this sentiment when spoke about some of these contributions at a Hispanic Heritage Month celebration at the White House Oct. 6.
“The Hispanic community is … known for its willingness to serve in the United States military and protect our freedoms,” Bush said. “Today we have over 200,000 Hispanic Americans wearing the uniform of the finest military on the face of the Earth. These fine Americans, like the other Americans in our military, are working hard to secure this country.”
Hispanic Heritage Month runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.
Before the awards ceremony, Dominguez told American Forces Press Service the conference gives the Defense Department the opportunity to work with organizations that share mutual interests in promoting science and technology, particularly as it relates to the Hispanic community.
“It’s a great opportunity to meet and work with people and organizations with similar interests, and collaborate and cooperate,” he said.
The HENAAC career fair provides DoD the chance to showcase what it has to offer as an employer and allows the department to recruit scientifically gifted young Hispanics for civilian defense jobs, Dominguez said. “There are some wonderful kids here who would really add a lot to the Defense Department,” he said.
“Our Defense Department is not only a shield for the life of the nation, it is also an incubator for the talent, the character, and the achievement of our children,” he continued. “There are a lot of opportunities to do some pretty exciting research working for DoD.”
DoD co-sponsored the conference’s Viva Technology Day event, which brought together hundreds of middle and high school students from California for a day of fun and learning. Students participated in challenges and heard from engineers and scientists from DoD and military services.
Dominguez said there is concern in U.S. government and private sector circles that the United States is falling being in the sciences. Hispanic scientists can help the United States compete in the competitive international technology arena, he said.
“Science and technology graduates school communities at U.S. universities are increasingly dominated by people from India and China and other countries that are going to be our competitors on the global stage,” he said. “This is a challenge for all Americans, and the Hispanic community needs to be a part of the solution.”
This challenge is also a great opportunity for the Hispanic community to show its stuff, he added.
Dominguez emphasized the role scientists have played in supporting America’s military operations. “Now, one B-2 can hit 200 targets with precision,” he said. “In the old days it took 200 bombers to maybe hit a target. It’s science and scientists who achieved those breakthroughs.”
In addition to Dominguez, other military and civilian defense personnel won awards at the conference. Navy Capt. Andrew Hale, commanding officer of USS Ohio, and Coast Guard Capt. Joseph Castillo, chief of staff for the Coast Guard’s 9th District, received HENAAC’s professional awards.
Nelson Sanchez, a civilian engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Mobile, Ala., received the “Civilian Engineering Distinction” award. “As we say in Alabama, ‘Muchos gracias, y’all,’” he said after receiving his award.
DoD also co-sponsored a recognition luncheon during the conference, where service cadets and midshipmen were honored for their academic excellence, leadership and distinction of service at their respective academies. Those honored were:
-Cadet 1st Class Gilberto A. Nieves, U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y.;
-Midshipman 1st Class Daphne Ponce, U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md.;
-Cadet 1st Class Edward Salazar, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Col.; and
-Cadet 1st Class David Gonzales, U.S. Coast Guard Academy, New London, Conn.
“These are some fabulous young men and women,” Dominguez said. “When I stand next to those kids I feel like the world’s greatest underachiever.”