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Hispanic-American Service Members Honored

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 15, 2002 – These Hispanic-American service members were not hailed as battlefield heroes in Afghanistan, but they play major roles in the success of combat operations against al Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

Although many Hispanic Americans fought in Afghanistan, those who were lauded in San Antonio, Texas, during DoD's observance of Hispanic American Heritage Month were recognized for their support of those who fought the battles. Two of them were honored for their contributions to homeland defense.

John M. Molino, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy and acting deputy assistant secretary for equal opportunity, represented DoD in recognizing an Air Force Reserve sergeant, a Marine Corps sergeant and two Coast Guard petty officers for achievements during Operations Enduring Freedom and Noble Eagle. Their contributions, Molino noted, are typical of those made by all service members.

Molino called forward recently promoted Air Force Reserve Staff Sgt. Jessie J. Garcia to receive an Air Force Commendation Medal. Brig. Gen. Bernard J. Pieczynski, who commands the Air Force Reserve's 433rd Airlift "Alamo" Wing at Lackland, presented Garcia the medal for outstanding achievement while assigned to the Force Protection Cell, 355th Air Expeditionary Group, Marsirah Island Air Base, Oman.

The award citation states in part that Garcia was handpicked over senior ranking and more experienced personnel to deliver 52-plus current intelligence briefings. "His thrice-weekly briefings during a relentless attack on Afghanistan ensured that all command personnel were briefed on current intelligence, the citation continues.

"His knowledge and expertise in the intelligence field was instrumental while assisting the Air Force Office of Special Investigations in ensuring that operation and communication security were being adhered to," it states. "He readily identified sensitive information that had been thrown in the trash, which if not discovered, could have resulted in a security violation."

Molino then asked Marine Corps Sgt. Felipe Rodriquez to stand and be recognized for the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal he'd received earlier for meritorious performance of duties while supporting various combat operations in Afghanistan. Rodriquez is an aviation supply clerk assigned to Marine Corps Reserve Aviation Logistics Squadron 41, Fort Worth, Texas.

Recognized next were two Hispanic-American Coast Guard Reserve enlisted men machinery technician Petty Officer 2nd class Albert G. Carrasco and port security specialist Seaman Joe M. Correa, both of the homeland security section, Marine Safety Office, Corpus Christi, Texas.

Carrasco, recently selected as his unit's Sailor of the Quarter, was honored for volunteering to take charge of port security law enforcement and boarding team member training.

Correa, recently awarded a Commandant's Letter of Commendation, was called to active duty to protect the port of Corpus Christi. "He has performed commendably in this highly stressful environment," Molino told the gathering.

A Reserve aircraft maintenance team of Lackland's 433rd Airlift Wing was also recognized for saving the Air Force more than $18 million and for performance that "dramatically impacted Operations Enduring Freedom and Noble Eagle," Molino said.

"When the Air Force's C-5A Galaxy aircraft fleet was grounded last year due to structural cracks, the team researched and developed a permanent repair procedure," he continued. "They accomplished all repairs on aircraft in minimum time, setting the example for other C-5A field units to follow." The team had already received the 2001 Air Force Productivity Award in April at the Pentagon for its innovative "hot-bonding" crack-repair process.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageJohn M. Molino tells his audience at DoD's Oct. 9, 2002, observance of Hispanic American Heritage Month that the service members being honored for their support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Noble Eagle are representative of all those who serve in the armed forces. Molino is deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy and the acting deputy assistant secretary for equal opportunity. Photo by Rudi Williams.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAir Force Reserve Staff Sgt. Jessie J. Garcia (left) receives the Air Force Commendation Medal from Brig. Gen. Bernard J. Pieczynski for outstanding service during Operations Enduring Freedom and Noble Eagle. Garcia is a member of Pieczynski's command, the Air Force Reserve 433rd Airlift "Alamo" Wing at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. Photo by Rudi Williams.  
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