Military's Asian-Pacific Americans Honored for Outstanding Contributions
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
ARLINGTON, Va., May 16, 2003 More than 800 people quietly watched as eight Asian- Pacific American service members were fted for their outstanding contributions to their services and communities during DoD's observance of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month here May 14.
Service members from each service, including the Coast Guard, Army and Air National Guards, and the Reserves, were presented the Federal Asian-Pacific American Council's military meritorious service award during ceremonies. The event was held in conjunction with the 18th Annual Federal Asian-Pacific American Council's National Leadership and Training Conference.
This marked the second year in a row that DoD has held its own observance of Asian- Pacific American Heritage Month. In the past, DoD participated in forums and other events.
"Each award recipient has made significant contributions to the advancement of Asian- Pacific Americans and the promotion of equal opportunity in the federal work force and the Asian-Pacific American community," said John M. Molino, deputy undersecretary of defense for military community and family policy and acting deputy undersecretary of defense for equal opportunity.
Molino said DoD is glad to partner with the council to highlight recognize and celebrate the outstanding contributions to the nation by Asian-Pacific Americans.
"We're honored to work with FAPAC in its outreach efforts as we take every opportunity to showcase to the diverse population we serve," he noted.
"Events like this recognizes that our country is made up almost entirely of the descendents of immigrants from many nations," Molino noted, "descendents who are proud to call themselves Americans and who are also proud of the country of their parents, grandparents and great grandparents."
David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, assisted Alexander Chan, FAPAC president, in presenting awards.
Army nurse Capt. HengMo McCall, of the 100th Area Support Group in Germany, was recognized for a broad array of contributions to her service and community in advancing the interests of women and minorities, said Army Col. Freeman Jones, military assistant, Office of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Equal Opportunity.
"In so doing, she has raised the understanding and acceptance of diversity and equal opportunity everywhere she goes," said Jones, in reading the award citations. "In addition, combining her leadership and health expertise, she has bettered the lives of women and minorities through education, fund-raising and direct health care."
He said McCall is applauded for her selfless and limitless support of Asian-Pacific Americans in the Army and her communities.
Navy Lt. Pamela Eclar was cited for being "unflagging in her energy and enthusiasm in promoting Asian-Pacific American awareness and appreciation in her Service and community."
Jones said Eclar is actively involved in cultural activities that showcase the rich heritage of Filipinos in America as well as of Asian-Pacific Americans in general. The environmental officer for the Naval Submarine Bay at Kings Bay, Ga., Eclar was credited with organizing numerous programs.
"She's also recognized for her generosity of time and effort on behalf of Hispanics, African-Americans, American Indians and women," Jones said.
Marine Corps Master Sgt. Iosefa Elisara, a career retention specialist at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii, is credited with having "a penchant and uncanny ability to promote longer-term commitments to Marines undecided about their future in the Corps, including Asian-Pacific American Service personnel," Jones told the large audience.
A relentless believer in the power of information, Elisara has been dogged in ensuring that Asian-Pacific Americans on his base have the most up-to-date, pertinent information possible, according to Jones. Elisara was credited with ensuring they can be effective in executing their jobs and caring for their dependents, particularly as they relocate to and from the base, an often-ignored transition.
"His efforts have made a positive difference in the local military and civilian communities," the colonel said.
Maj. Che Russell, chairman of the Asian-Pacific American community at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., was honored for leading his colleagues in conducting many functions on and off the base.
"He has provided invaluable assistance to the workforce in overcoming discrimination and eliminating barriers that hinder equal opportunity for Asian-Pacific Americans and other minorities," Jones quoted from the award citation. "His leadership has played a key role in opportunities that contribute to the advancement of Asian-Pacific Americans and other minorities in the Air Force."
Russell is the senior intelligence officer and intelligence flight commander at Tinker.
Chief Warrant Officer Francisco Palacios was lionized for "walking the walk" and putting his money where his mouth is, Jones said.
"At his own expense, he has cooked and fed the Asian-Pacific American indigent, the home- bound, and the isolated -- 40 and 50 at a time -- when it matters most during the holidays," Jones said.
A native of Saipan, Palacios works with Asian-Pacific American families and youth to preserve their culture and ease their transition during natural disasters and relocations, according to the award citation. For the Coast Guard, he has accompanied recruiters to Pacific Rim countries to improve communications with potential applicants. Palacios is the supply officer for the Coast Guard Group in San Francisco.
Palacios was presented a special, framed certificate that was created by a special bill that was passed by the Commonwealth of Northern Marianna Islands to honor him. Pete Tenorio, the Washington representative for the islands, presented the certificate.
Called an "exemplary ambassador for the Army National Guard and the Asian-Pacific American community," Sgt. 1st Class Lydia Burnett was credited with breaking barriers for herself and for being instrumental in providing nontraditional employment opportunities for other Asian-Pacific Americans and women in the National Guard.
"She mentors youth and works with their families to educate them about the guard," Jones noted. "She's also active in her Filipino community where she is a leader in her local association. She uses her native dance skills to bridge gaps in cultural understanding and establish links between her service and her community."
Burnett is the Asian-Pacific American employment manager and a tools and parts attendant for the Arkansas Army National Guard.
Col. Robert A. Chin, called an ambassador from the District of Columbia Air National Guard to the Asian-Pacific American community, was recognized for his part in making the unit one of the most diverse in the Air National Guard.
"He's unceasing in touting the benefits of the guard to anyone who will listen, and those listening are often the Asian-Pacific American community youths whom he seeks to recruit," Jones said. "He's also an enthusiastic advocate for the equal opportunity program, helping the D.C. guard meet and exceed its equal opportunity objectives."
Chin is director of operations for the D.C. Air National Guard.
Master Sgt. Norah V. Rentillo was honored for demonstrating the ideals and principles of the Federal Asian-Pacific American Council as a citizen and a citizen-soldier.
A veteran of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Rentillo now serves as military equal opportunity representative and EO adviser for the U.S. Army Reserve Command, Atlanta.
"Master Sgt. Rentillo has conducted EO training for hundreds of soldiers and civilians," Jones noted. "She also mentors soldiers and civilians in the command, as well as adults and children in her neighborhood."