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DoD 'Takes Pentagon to People' in Observing Hispanic Heritage

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

ANAHEIM, Calif., Oct. 7, 2005 – In an effort "to take the Pentagon to the people," the Defense Department hosted a luncheon here Oct. 6 in observance of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Clarence Johnson, principal director for the Office of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Equal Opportunity, speaks at a Defense Department Hispanic heritage luncheon in Anaheim, Calif., Oct. 6. Photo by Rudi Williams

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The luncheon was held in conjunction with the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Corporation 17th annual conference to recognize the contributions of Hispanics to the nation's defense, a top DoD official said during the luncheon.

"Rather than conduct our program in Washington, D.C., before a local audience, we thought, 'What better way to observe a particular group's contributions than by taking a program to the groups being observed,'" said Clarence Johnson, principal director for the Office of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Equal Opportunity.

Johnson said DoD wants to work with different ethnicities to close the gap on some of the department's shortcomings.

He thanked the Hispanic-engineer group for selecting DoD civilians as special individuals who reflect the department's work force. DoD also honored Hispanic contributions to the military by recognizing an ROTC cadet and naming military service academy cadets and midshipmen as role models.

The luncheon audience of more than 500 people included more than 300 middle school, high school and college students. HENAAC, Johnson said, is a key organization in reaching America's promising youth, with the important message that the nation's production of engineers and scientists must continue if the country is to maintain its technological edge globally.

"Hispanics must continue to see the value and the advantage in pursuing engineering and science careers," Johnson said. "Actually, women and minorities have not shown a high propensity to pursue engineering and science careers. HENAAC, along with other organizations, is helping to improve that phenomenon. The Defense Department, therefore, applauds HENAAC for all it does to prepare our nation's middle and high school students for the challenging tomorrows."

Johnson also thanked HENAAC for helping showcase DoD as an employer of choice. He pointed out that DoD has more than 12,000 openings for engineers and scientists in 2006.

"The engineering and science work force is the second-largest work group among DoD's some 700,000 civilian employees," he noted. "DoD is well-represented among the top in the highest civilian pay grades. And similarly, those with technological expertise are the ones that have the best chances of rising to the top military pay grades, whether they're in combat arms, command ships or fly airplanes."

He said the department is committed to increasing Hispanic representation in the military and DoD's civilian work force.

Pointing out that there were "some key influencers of our society" in the audience, Johnson said, "I call on you to help increase the representation (of Hispanics within DoD) by telling young people about the opportunities and value of service to our country, either in the military ranks or as civil servants.

"The military affords our young people the opportunity to gain responsibility fast and develop leadership skills that can't be obtained anywhere else, from leading a platoon in battle to flying an aircraft off the deck of an aircraft carrier in high seas to developing departmental policy," the retired Air Force pilot said. "And our civilian jobs offer exciting and rewarding career opportunities, as well."

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Clarence Johnson

Related Sites:
Defense Department Equal Opportunity
Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Corporation

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