Nine Servicemembers Earn Asian-Pacific American Council Award
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 3, 2005 Nine servicemembers representing the four active duty services, reserve components and the Coast Guard were presented the Federal Asian-Pacific American Council's Military Meritorious Service Award during the Defense Department's Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month luncheon and military awards ceremony here June 2.
John M. Molino, acting deputy undersecretary of defense for equal opportunity, told about 800 attendees at the DoD Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month Luncheon and Military Awards Ceremony that DoD is glad it could "partner with the Federal Asian-Pacific American Council to highlight, recognize and celebrate the outstanding contributions of Asian-Pacific Americans to our great nation." Photo by Rudi Williams
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
This marks the 19th year the council has honored military personnel during its annual national leadership and training conference.
"This military award ceremony and luncheon is part of a series of programs occurring at military installations around the world to inform, stimulate, interest and build a deeper appreciation of the contributions, accomplishments and culture of Asian Americans and Pacific islanders," John M. Molino, acting deputy undersecretary of defense for equal opportunity, told the gathering of about 800 attendees.
"Events like the one we are having here today recognize that our country is made up almost entirely of descendents from immigrants of many nations -- descendents who are proud to call themselves Americans and who are also proud of where their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents came from," Molino said. "We are glad we could partner with the Federal Asian-Pacific American Council today to highlight, recognize, and celebrate the outstanding contributions of Asian-Pacific Americans to our great nation."
He said the special FAPAC Military Meritorious Service Award recognizes each servicemember's significant contributions to the advancement of Asian and Pacific Americans and the promotion of equal opportunity in the federal work force and the Asian-Pacific American community. The event's keynote speaker, David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, assisted Linda Tuazon-Miller, FAPAC's president, in presenting the awards. This year's Marine Corps honoree is Staff Sgt. Jonathan E. Flick, credited with enlisting more than 90 Asian-Pacific islanders in the Marine Corps during three years as a recruiter in the Asian Pacific Region, 12th Marine Corps District, based in Guam. During his extensive travels, Flick fostered good relations with local communities in South Korea, Japan, the Marianas Islands of Saipan, Tinian and Rota, according to the award citation.
"While there, he was not only the local recruiter, but also an ambassador to the youth of the local communities," the award citation reads. "He improved relations by igniting awareness and extolling the benefits of the military to the community. In an area where the local economy has been at a virtual stand still, Flick has helped young people succeed when they otherwise might have failed.
He's also cited for taking a "strong personal interest in the development of his Marine recruits, using his personal time to prepare and train each and every young man or woman who joined his program. These recruits had culturally, nationally and racially diverse backgrounds."
This year's Marine Corps Reserve winner is Sgt. Jeffrey Chao, who is hailed as "an outstanding individual and an outspoken community activist" who has gone above and beyond his duties as a platoon sergeant "to help fellow Marines and veterans, and has been a forceful voice in the community in support of his fellow citizens."
A veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Chao is platoon sergeant of the supply section at Headquarters and Service Company, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marines, 4th Marine Division.
Wanting more support for Asians and military veterans, Chao recently ran for city council of Monterey Park, Calif., which has a 65.8 percent Asian-American population. He lost the election, now champions numerous veterans' educational benefits with local, state and federal political leaders. He also speaks to students and teachers about the sacrifices and service of America's military, and works events where he can promote military awareness, according to the award citation.
For the past two years, Chao has helped to orchestrate the Chinese New Year parade, held during February in Alhambra, Calif. Chao has also participated in Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and other city parades to help promote community awareness and pride for the military.
"One of his favorite Marine Corps events, the Toys-for-Tots program, has enjoyed his tremendous talent and energy and helping to sort and distribute a mountain of toys donated by major corporations. He is a hands-on, take-action individual, ready to jump in to lead or lend a hand," the citation reads.
The Army award was garnered by Sgt. 1st Class Thomas A. Talf, currently the installation equal opportunity advisor at Fort Monroe, Va. Talf was honored for outstanding contributions he made in increasing diversity and awareness in the civilian and military Asian-Pacific islander communities at Fort Sill, Okla. Taft gave more than 240 hours of instruction on diversity to more than 233,000 military personnel. With computers, he created interactive diversity training presentations to promote discussion and focus on "Communicating Across Differences."
He was inducted into the Sgt. Audie Murphy Club, an organization of noncommissioned officers with goals in community mentorship. Later, he became vice president of the Redleg Chapter at Fort Sill, Okla., and led the organization in food drives for Asian and Pacific islanders and other ethnic communities. He has collected used cell phones for battered women. For these efforts, Taft was selected as Fort Sill's equal opportunity adviser of the year for two consecutive years and inducted into the Field Artillery Association.
Taft also helped organize one of the largest observances of Asian-Pacific Islanders Heritage Month ever held at Fort Sill. He volunteered with the Human Rights and Relations Commission for Lawton, Okla. One of the organization's largest projects is the annual International Festival, which more than 20,000 people attended. The festival focuses on ethnic cultures, bringing awareness to the public of the importance of their differences such as food, clothing, music and dance.
The Army Reserve award winner is Sgt. 1st Class Kathryn G. Balvage of the 1st Brigade, 98th Division, U.S. Army Reserve Command, who is called an outstanding example of one who leads by example, both internal and external to the Asian-Pacific American community.
The training noncommissioned officer for C Company, she is responsible for ensuring that soldiers assigned to her company are qualified and trained for peacetime and wartime missions. She coordinates, plans, and executes the administrative and training actions necessary to maintain individual and unit readiness. As the battalion duty appointed retention NCO, Balvage created and maintains an ethnically diversified unit through periodic counseling and mentoring of junior soldiers.
She has dedicated countless hours of personal time to the unit's Family Readiness Group and has been a key player in planning, organizing, and executing several successful group activities. Balvage has also provided babysitting services to support family members of deployed soldiers, according to her citation.
This year's award recipient for the Navy is Petty Officer Joseph B. Abenojar, the lead noncommissioned officer for the Supply Department Material Division on board the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. He's credited with being a positive influence and promoting equal opportunity for all ethnic groups aboard ship Abenojar is also known throughout the command for his valued contributions in the local communities, his citation reads.
For example, Abenojar was heavily involved in the command's cultural celebrations, including spearheading a celebration of Asian Pacific American heritage during a recent overseas port visit to Guam with a banquet-style meal featuring Asian and Pacific cuisines. The special meal and celebration elevated his shipmates' awareness of the traditions and heritage of Asian-Pacific Americans, according to the award citation.
In the workplace, Abenojar sets the tone for fair treatment of members of at least six different ethnic groups in his division.
An active member of the Filipino-American Association in Bremerton, Wash., Abenojar cultivates community awareness of Asian-Pacific American heritage through activities such as the Christmas Angel project in which donations of toys and clothes were distributed to less fortunate families, the citation noted.
The Army National Guard's award recipient is Sgt. Benjamin I. Lomboy of the California Army National Guard's enlisted record sergeant and e-orders manager who is recognized for rendering dedicated service to the Asian-Pacific American community.
The award citation states that Lomboy "uses his highly polished interpersonal skills to persuade his leaders to support diversity programs, while helping to create jobs and training opportunities for fellow soldiers of diverse ancestry and for himself. He promotes awareness of Asian-Pacific American contributions to the fabric of American society through his efforts as the special emphasis program coordinator for Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month and encourages his fellow soldiers to learn and grow through their participation."
Tech. Sgt. Christian T. Dao is this year's award winner for the Air National Guard. A structural repair technician with the 201st Airlift Squadron, District of Columbia Air National Guard, based at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Dao was cited for being "an innovative noncommissioned officer whose initiative and technical expertise have contributed significantly to the accomplishments of the District of Columbia Air National Guard." In his 22-year military career, he has participated in many deployments, including Operations Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom.
In 2003, Dao was the only person qualified to handle maintenance for a critical distinguished visitor aircraft. He acquired all necessary tools and materials and successfully completed the repair in time for his unit to meet mission requirements and satisfy its customers.
"Dao's ingenuity goes beyond his repair skills," his citation reads. "For example, he designed, fabricated, and installed all the aircraft marking for the 201st Airlift Squadron's new Boeing (737) C-40 aircraft. Upon delivery, he marked the aircraft with the squadron's new paint scheme. His designs then became the model for all current 201st Airlift Squadron vehicles."
As the special emphasis program manager for Asian-Pacific Americans, Dao has participated in the Air National Guard Aviation Career Day and the Pilot for a Day programs. "These events show his dedication to helping local high school students with their future goals and affording terminally ill children the opportunity to fulfill a wish, while promoting the National Guard to his community," the citation reads.
The Coast Guard's award recipient is Lt. j.g. Ron Nakamoto, who works with the Compass Diversity Outreach Program to recruit Asians for the Coast Guard and create job opportunities that support the advancement of Asian-Pacific Americans. Assigned to Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, he's currently working with the East Coast Asian-American Student Union with a recruiting message aimed at reaching every Asian-American student on the East Coast.
He has organized numerous programs and activities that advocate equal opportunity for Asian-Pacific Americans in the military and the federal government. Nakamoto has introduced many Coast Guard employees to Asian culture and the benefits of diversity through equal opportunity special-emphasis programs.
The lieutenant is involved in many organizations that help the Asian-Pacific American community, among them the Coast Guard Partnership in Education Program, equal employment opportunity special emphasis programs, Blacks in Government, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Coast Guard Headquarters Asian-Pacific American Employment Committee.
Nakamoto has received numerous accolades recognizing his pivotal roles in projects such as the 2004 Holocaust Memorial Day Service, East Coast Asian-American Student Conference, Blacks in Government's scholarship fundraiser and Asian-Pacific American employment programs and seminars.
This year's award winner for the Air Force is Master Sgt. Maria R. Kraft, a first sergeant in the 9th Air Refueling Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, Calif. She has helped the work force of Asian-Pacific Americans and other minorities overcome discrimination and eliminate barriers that hindered equal opportunity, according to the award citation.
For example, she managed a $47 million contract that employed over 500 personnel from Europe and Asia. Despite cultural challenges, her flight was named best in U.S. Air Forces Europe. Her actions have encouraged leaders to actively promote diversity and equal employment opportunity programs, her citation reads.
Noting that Kraft chairs this year's Asian-Pacific American Heritage Committee at Travis, the citation states that she has fostered unity on the base and in surrounding communities, providing education and elevating awareness of the cultures of the Asian-Pacific region.
Kraft also introduced the first "Holidays Around the World," highlighting different traditions from around the globe, and led the Asian-Pacific American community in preparing ethnic delicacies. For two consecutive years, Kraft hosted an Asian Cultural Fair at Lajes Field in the Azores that more than 1,500 people attended at the small mid-Atlantic base. Wing leadership praised these activities as benchmarks for other cultural events to follow, he citation reads.