Asian, Pacific Soldiers celebrate heritage
May 31, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla.-- The son of a Bataan Death March survivor and an interned nurse's aide at a POW camp was the guest speaker at the Fort Sill Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month luncheon May 24 at the Patriot Club.
Retired Maj. Gen. Tony Taguba, 61, a Filipino-American, spoke about the barriers Asian/Pacific Americans face in employment and Asian roles models.
"I could not have ever imagined during my Army career, that as an immigrant, I would become only the second Filipino-American general in the United States Army," said Taguba, who retired in 2007. "I followed another fellow immigrant and a good friend, Lieutenant General Edward Soriano."
With an "Aloha!" mistress of ceremonies Maj. Marny Skindrud, 168th Brigade Support Battalion support operations officer, began the annual luncheon, which honors Americans with Asian and Pacific roots.
The event was co-sponsored by the 214th Fires Brigade and Installation Equal Employment Opportunity Office, and hosted by the Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill commanding general.
In his invocation, Chaplain (Capt.) Brian Hall, 168th BSB, said, "Gracious God ... today we are especially grateful for the gift of diversity. ... Let this time also remind us of the good of all your people and that we may continue to work to remove barriers that will prevent us from seeing that good."
Lt. Col. Jim Mattox, 214th FiB deputy commanding officer, welcomed the crowd and introduced Taguba. Mattox said acknowledging one's heritage is important.
"We must continue to remember to celebrate our heritage," said Mattox, "so the next generation and the generation after that will continue to carry on the legacy of our nationalities and our history, and continue to be proud of where they came from."
Taguba cited a study of why Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders were continuing to have problems with employment in the federal government. The study identified five barriers.
The first, was the perception of being a model minority and excessively competent, Taguba said.
"Myth or reality, it is vintage stereotyping," he said.
Second was language and accent discrimination.
Third was a perception of "foreign-ness," Taguba said. Although Asian-Americans may be perceived as Americans, some people may have a subconscious perception of them as foreigners.
The fourth barrier was the perception of social deficiency, which can exclude people from social networks and leadership positions, he said.
The last was the perception that Asian-Americans lack leadership skills, he said. They are seen more as team players, than as leaders, Taguba said.
Because of these findings, in 2011 President Obama directed an initiative to promote diversification and inclusion in the federal workforce.
"I believe the actions should be resident to the (Asian-American) community levels, and the community leaders actively involved to generate the solutions," Taguba said.
He spoke about an Asian-American who defied these barriers, New York Knicks basketball player Jeremy Lin.
He had stellar education achievements at Harvard University, possesses outstanding basketball skills, as well as communication skills, and has the presence as a leader, he said.
"We need more Jeremy Lins to inspire us all," Taguba said.
Afterward, Col. Daniel Karbler, Air Defense Artillery School commandant and chief of ADA, thanked Taguba and presented him with a plaque.
"When the chief of staff of the Army talks about the strength of our Army is our Soldiers, imbedded in that strength is our diversity," Karbler said.