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Hispanics on the Rise as Largest U.S. Ethnicity

By Staff Sgt. Alicia K. Borlik
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15, 1998 – Hispanics account for almost 11 percent of the American population, numbering near 30 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And their numbers are expected to triple by the middle of the next century, accounting for nearly a quarter of America's population.

The fastest growing ethnic group in America is also increasing its presence in the military. Since 1987, the percentage of Hispanics in uniform has increased more than any other group, up 3 percent to almost 100,000 in strength, according to statistics from the Defense Manpower Data Center in Monterey, Calif.

The Army shows the largest Hispanic increase in the past 10 years. Despite the drawdown, the number of Hispanic soldiers increased 10 percent even as the ranks of white and black soldiers decreased about 40 percent each. Hispanic soldiers currently account for nearly 7 percent of the Army.

Hispanic representation in the Marine Corps nearly doubled during the past 10 years to about 11 percent. The Navy and Air Force have 6 percent to 8 percent Hispanic service members.

In July, at the DoD Equal Opportunity Conference in Birmingham, Ala., Deputy Defense Secretary John J. Hamre recognized the importance of minorities to the success of an increasingly diverse U.S. military.

"The proportion of Hispanics in the services has grown, but they are still underrepresented," Hamre said. "Minorities in general are still underrepresented in the officer corps. While minorities represent one in five enlisted men and women, they represent only one out of 10 officers." He described the president's desire to have a government that "looks like America."

"The Department of Defense wants to meet that goal and go one better," Hamre said. "Our goal is to have an all-volunteer force that has all the diversity of America, but is uniform in its excellence. Whether someone is white, black, brown, yellow, male, or female is not the issue. We want to find and keep the best minds, talent and leaders available."

DoD's theme for the 1998 Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 Oct. 15) is "Hispanic Women in Leadership."

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