Asian Pacific American Association Honors Three DoD
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 21, 1996 Three DoD employees were honored June 5 in Bethesda, Md., at the 10th annual conference of the National Association of Professional Asian-American Women.
Belkis "Bel" Leong-Hong was named the association's 1996 outstanding professional woman of the year. She is deputy assistant secretary of defense for plans and resources in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence.
Frederick E. Soto, national director of equal employment opportunity for the Defense Finance and Accounting Service in Arlington, Va., received the association's public service award. Ching S. Shelton, a management analyst for the Launch Programs System Program Office at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., received a special service award.
Leong-Hong, a naturalized American from China, was selected for "outstanding work, distinguished accomplishments, exceptional leadership and outstanding contributions to the organization's 10th training conference," said Vivian Kim, chairwoman of the association, which she founded in 1987.
"She is cited for providing leadership and integrity in our society and for being a positive role model for Asian-American women and others," Kim said. "She's making significant contributions to the quality of life for all Americans."
"When I heard about it (the award), I was overwhelmed," Leong-Hong said. "I've been trying to call attention to the capabilities of Asian-Pacific-American people. I recognize we have cultural traits that sometimes serve as a self-hindrance. So in the last three to four years, I've been talking to groups of Asian-Pacific-American employees and telling them they have the capability of empowering themselves to succeed. So far this month, for instance, I've given speeches at 17 different places.".
Before taking her current position, Leong-Hong held various leadership positions in Defense Information Systems Agency, including deputy commander for the Joint Interoperability and Engineering Organization. Her government career spans a quarter of a century in the information technology field, with emphasis on data and software.
Soto was honored "for outstanding leadership, sustained dedication, exceptional efforts and commitment in providing significant contributions to the civil rights issues and the Asian women's association's training objectives," Kim said.
Soto, a Hispanic American, said being recognized by an ethnic group other than his own helps confirm his efforts to ensure equality of opportunity for all. The Asian women's group and similar organizations have helped keep the Defense Finance and Accounting Center focused on the global concerns of all ethnic groups, he added.
"Barriers to advancement, development and recruitment are not limited to any one group," Soto said. "Usually, what affects one group also affects the others.
"This is a great honor for me," he continued. "It's also inspiring to be recognized for what you love to do. Pursuing equal employment opportunity and civil rights is more than a job to me. It's a natural extension of being an American.
"Discrimination is morally wrong regardless of the target or the perpetrator," he said. "I think what may have impressed ethnic associations is our willingness to work with them in providing solutions to their constituents' problems."
Kim said Shelton was cited for "dedication, personal commitment and unselfish contributions to the Asian American program activities and significant contributions to the association's programs, goals and objectives."
A naturalized American from China, Shelton was raised in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, and worked during the Vietnam War for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service and a DoD contractor at Tan Son Nhut Air Base.