Hispanics Underrepresented in Military; Services Trying to Attract
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
ANTONIO, Texas Bernardo C. Negrete has a message for young
Hispanic Americans: "The military is a perfect place to build
"I think I'm an example. I'm a Cuban refugee who came to this
country when I was 10 years old and flunked the sixth grade because
I couldn't speak English," said Negrete, an Army brigadier general
who speaks unaccented English. "So you can make a difference,
and the system can make a difference for you. The key is, you've got
to make a difference."
Negrete is the deputy commanding general of Army Recruiting Command
West, which covers everything west of the Mississippi River and South
His remarks came during an interview here at the Department of Defense's
first observance of Hispanic American Heritage Month outside the Pentagon.
Charles Abell, assistant secretary of defense for force management
policy, hosted the symposium and luncheon as part of DoD's ongoing
initiatives to increase Hispanic representation and to improve access
to information and opportunities.
The event was attended by Hispanic serving institutions and their
students, area high schools, DoD services and components from throughout
the country, local and national Hispanic organizations, community
organizations, city, county and other government organizations.
But Negrete thinks having the event away from Washington gives it
more impact. However, he added, "It's unfortunate that in this
day and age we still have to convince people that everybody is equal.
"The military probably has the best melding of tolerance of anywhere
in our society and I'm proud of that," he continued. "It's
good for the military and society at large because so many of our
kids get out and go back into society and tend to learn from their
military service and carry that learning with them."
Emphasizing that the military doesn't reward anyone for where their
parents came from, the one-star general said, "The military is
going to reward you for what you do, who you are and how you do it.
As long as you know those rules, you've got an equal chance. It doesn't
matter if you're Hispanic, Chinese or from any other ethnic group."
Negrete runs the Army program that aims to attract more Hispanics
to serve. "The Army has an underrepresented Hispanic population,"
he noted. "When I started this program about 15 months ago, we
were about 8 percent. We're about 10 percent now. We've made a significant
improvement (by) going after Hispanics in a manner we've never done
before. We're giving our recruiters goals to meet in order to bring
the Hispanic population of the Army to par with the general population
of the country."
The Army's plan seems to be working well and calls for achieving parity
by 2006, Negrete said. "This year our goal was 12 percent and
we hit 13 percent. Next year, our goal was 13 percent I just
raised it to 14 percent."