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DoD Needs More Hispanics in Military, Civilian Work Force

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 19, 2005 – Though the Defense Department has made considerable progress in increasing Hispanic representation in its military and civilian work force, much more needs to be done, a top DoD official said here recently.

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Clarence Johnson, right, principal director, Office of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Equal Opportunity, chats with Rep. Grace Napolitano, chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and Robert E. Bard, president and chief executive officer of Latina Style magazine. Photo by Rudi Williams

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Clarence Johnson, principal director of the Office of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Equal Opportunity, told the audience at a luncheon and awards ceremony hosted by Latina Style magazine last week 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 are now just over 9 percent of all Americans in the active duty military force and 8.5 percent of all persons serving in the National Guard and Reserves," Johnson said.

But Johnson emphasized that more progress is needed. "Hispanics must be better represented in the leadership ranks," he said, "because we want role models for our youth and we want our military leadership to reflect the force they lead."

Johnson also pointed out that DoD isn't satisfied with the number of Hispanic civilian employees in its work force. "Our efforts have not resulted in the success we want and expect," he noted. "Hispanics comprise slightly more than 6 percent of the DoD civilian work force, in comparison to almost 11 percent of the national civilian work force. This is not acceptable."

He said DoD is reaching out to Hispanics, trying to convince more of them to join the military and civilian work force. "Our presence here today is an example of that effort," he said, "and we're expanding contacts and linkages with other Hispanic organizations such as the National Organization for Mexican American Rights, League of United Latin American Citizens, Mexican American Engineering Society and Hispanic Engineers National Achievement Awards Corporation."

Johnson asked the audience to help DoD reach its goals by telling young Hispanics about the opportunities and the value of service to the nation, either in the military ranks or as civil servants.

"The military affords our young people the opportunity to gain responsibility fast and develop leadership skills that can't be obtained anywhere else - from leading a platoon in battle to flying an aircraft off the deck of an aircraft carrier in high seas to developing departmental policy," he noted. "And our civilian jobs offer exciting and rewarding career opportunities, as well."

This year's symposium recognized six Hispanic women trailblazers who have made an impact on the nation and their communities through their service in the armed forces. Last year, the symposium highlighted Hispanic women attending the four military academies.

The six honorees are Army Lt. Col. Maricela G. Alvarado, Navy Capt. Kathlene Contres, Marine Corps Col. Angela Salinas, Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Susan R. Ayala, Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Priscilla Melendez and Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Isabel Paez.

Johnson, Bard and Rep. Grace Napolitano, chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, participated in presenting Latina Style plaques to the awardees. "Yours is a legacy that makes us proud and that gives us reason to pause in appreciation," Johnson told the honorees. "Through your personal example and our expanded organizational efforts, we can increase the number of Hispanics in the federal government and in particular in the Department of Defense - but we must move forward together if we are to succeed."

Johnson asked the audience to remember that every day 1.4 million active soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, and 1.3 million reservists voluntarily put their lives at risk to safeguard American's freedom and way of life.

"At any given moment, our troops are flying combat missions or conducting combat patrols in Southwest Asia, providing security and humanitarian and civil affairs support around the world, hunting terrorists in the caves of Afghanistan, standing guard over our nation's interests around the world and maintaining ships and submarines across the vast reaches of the oceans," Johnson said. "They are also attending college, learning new skills, developing into leaders of character who will lead in the service or as citizens."

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Related Articles:
Magazine Honors Six Hispanic-American Military Women

Click photo for screen-resolution imageClarence Johnson, principal director, Office of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Equal Opportunity, told attendees at the second annual National Latina Symposium that the Defense Department realizes that, although it has made considerable progress in Hispanic representation in the military and civilian work force, much more needs to be done. Photo by Rudi Williams   
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