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Magazine Honors Military Academy Hispanic Women

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15, 2004 – Four Hispanic-American women in the Class of 2005 at the military academies were lauded as emerging leaders from the Latina community during an awards luncheon here Sept 8.

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Robert E. Bard, president and chief executive officer of Latina Style magazine, said the four Hispanic women students who are graduating from the military academies in the Class of 2005 "are shining example of the upcoming leadership that's emerging from (the Hispanic-American) community." Bard's remarks came during a Defense Department and Latina Style luncheon in Washington on Sept. 8. Photo by Rudi Williams

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The Defense Department-hosted event kicked off DoD's celebration of Hispanic American Heritage Month, which begins today through Oct. 15. The luncheon was in conjunction with the First National Latina Symposium, a two-day conference featuring roundtable and panel discussions about important issues identified by professional Hispanic women.

Honored students were Cadet 1st Class Jessica C. Tomazic, U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.; Midshipman 1st Class Maia Molina-Schaefer, U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md.; Cadet 1st Class Cindy Nieves, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colo.; and Cadet 1st Class Lily Zepeda, U.S. Coast Guard Academy, New London, Conn.

The keynote speaker was Air Force Brig. Gen. Maria Owens, director for manpower and personnel on the Joint Staff.

Aiming her remarks at the cadets, Owens said, "I set my sights on a career in the Air Force, and it has proved to be all I hoped it would be and much that I could not even imagine. I have learned how to be a leader as well as a manager. I have been mentored and been given the opportunity to mentor others in return. I have traveled the world, met presidents, worked for secretaries of defense and witnessed true heroism in military members of all ranks."

"When we think about role models like our Latina military academy cadets we celebrate women, who through a variety of ways, have provided the shoulders that boost others up, enabling them to reach and grow," Owens said.

The general then gave her recruiting pitch. "The Air Force leadership is looking forward to the rest of the 21st century and to its responsibility as one of the world's great technology leaders. We need bright, capable recruits and have wonderful opportunities in the fields of acquisition, engineering, aerospace communications, and, of course, pilots and astronauts.

Owens said she inherited a legacy of service from both of her parents. "At the age of 15, my dad enlisted in the Navy, and then went on to serve as both an enlisted member and officer in the Army, and later, the Air Force," said Owens, a Mexican American. "My father served during World War II and the Korean War, in Europe, the Pacific and throughout the United States. After retiring from the Air Force, he taught school for 25 years in the rural community of Cleburne, Texas."

Her mother, a nurse, served in the Army and Air Force in Europe and the Pacific. "In the early '50s, when I was born, women were not allowed to remain in the Air Force after they were pregnant," Owens noted. "But after my father retired and we moved to Texas, my mother continued her legacy of service by running an operating room in the Johnson County Hospital for over 30 years."

John M. Molino, acting deputy undersecretary of defense for equal opportunity, said the luncheon honored "the special military academy students who make us proud and give us reason to pause in appreciation.'

"You are the future," he continued, "tomorrow's leaders, and the role models for youth female and male/Hispanic to follow."

Molino noted that DoD has made considerable progress in Hispanic representation in the military, but added that "we still need to do more." But he pointed out that since DoD began to draw down its military force in the late 1980s, Hispanic representation in the active duty military has more than doubled.

"Hispanics must be better represented in the leadership ranks because we want role models for our youth and we want our military leadership to reflect the force they lead," said Molino. "Despite many programs with the objective of enhancing Hispanic representation among our civilian employees, our efforts have not resulted in the success we want and expect."

Hispanics make up about 6 percent of the DoD civilian work force, in comparison to more than 12 percent of the national civilian work force, Molino noted.

"This is not acceptable," he told the gathering.

"We are committed to recruit, develop, and retain qualified Hispanic employees," Molino vowed. "Hispanics are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population and will soon be the largest and youngest minority group in the nation."

He assured the Hispanic-American military men and women, both active duty and reserves, and the entire Hispanic community, that "DoD is committed to increasing the representation of Hispanics in its civilian work force and its military ranks."

"Our programs and initiatives indicate that we've made progress, and acknowledge that we need to make inroads in our recruitment, retention and development strategies to succeed," Molino said.

Other DoD representatives at the luncheon were Michael Montelongo, assistant secretary of the Air Force for financial management and comptrollers and Clarence Johnson, DoD's principal director for equal opportunity. Shirley Martinez, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for equal opportunity, served as the presiding official.

The late Anna Maria Arias created Latina Style, a national magazine for contemporary Hispanic woman. Her goal was to promote Hispanic women and address the needs of Latina working women in the United States. The symposium was a tribute to Arias' memory and vision, said Robert E. Bard, Arias' widower and the magazine's president and chief executive officer, and marked the publication's 10th anniversary.

"We are honored to have this opportunity to recognize these outstanding cadets from the military academies during an event designed to recognize the vision and leadership of Anna Maria Arias, a true leader and pioneer in our community," Bard said in a pre-event press release. "The four Latinas being recognized are a shining example of the upcoming leadership that is emerging from our community."

The magazine is slated to produce and present a report to national leaders, including the political establishment, business and education communities, colleges and universities, community organizations and career centers, officials said. It will reflect the status of working Hispanic women in the United States, according to Bard.

Contact Author

Acting Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Equal Opportunity John M. Molino
Air Force Brig. Gen. Maria Owens

Click photo for screen-resolution image"You are the future, tomorrow's leaders, and the role models for youth female and male/Hispanic to follow," John M. Molino told the four Hispanic women honorees from the Class of 2005 representing the four military academies during a Defense Department and Latina Style magazine luncheon in Washington Sept. 8. Molino is acting deputy undersecretary of defense for equal opportunity. Photo by Rudi Williams  
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