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Profiles - Hispanic Americans in the U.S. Army

Dr. Joseph W. Westphal

Honorable Dr. Joseph W. Westphal - First Hispanic Under Secretary of the United States Army

Dr. Joseph W. Westphal served as the 30th Under Secretary of the Army. He has had a distinguished career of service in both academia and government.

Dr. Westphal served as Chancellor of the University of Maine System and Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. He also served as the Provost, Senior Vice President for Research and Professor of Environmental Studies at The New School in New York City. He stepped down from this position to serve as a member of President Obama’s Transition Team for Defense matters in December 2008.

Dr. Westphal spent his first 12 years in academia as a faculty member of Oklahoma State University, where he worked as a Professor of Political Science, later becoming head of the Department. During his many years of public service, Dr. Westphal has lectured at numerous universities around the world and taught public policy as an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University while working in Washington DC. In addition to a distinguished academic career, Dr. Westphal has led a prestigious and varied career in public service as well. In 2001, he served as the Acting Secretary of the Army and earlier, he served as the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works from 1998 to 2001.

Dr. Westphal has had extensive experience working in the United States Congress and other departments within the executive branch. He served as the Senior Policy Advisor for Water Resources at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during the Clinton Administration. He also worked in the United States Congress in various capacities, from directing a bi-partisan congressional caucus in the House and Senate, as a budget analyst and assistant to the Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on the Budget to working on Members’ staff. Earlier in his public service career, Dr. Westphal worked as a policy advisor to the Secretary in the Department of the Interior.

Dr. Westphal received his Bachelor’s degree from Adelphi University, his Master’s degree from the Oklahoma State University and his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Born in Santiago, Chile, he moved to the United States with his family at the age of six years old. His father was a business executive and his parents were committed to giving him the best educational opportunities. Two of his favorite Latin American dishes are baked Empanadas de Pino (filled with the traditional Chilean seasoned ground beef mixture), and grilled Chilean Albacora (swordfish). Dr. Westphal is fluent in Spanish, is married, and has four adult children and six grandchildren.

When asked what unique qualities Hispanics bring to the Army, he responded: “Diversity is a natural element of Army culture and we value the unique contributions Hispanics bring to our Army. The Army's focus on diversity is a critical element in our ability to sustain the Force by attracting Soldiers and Civilians from all backgrounds. The background of Hispanic Soldiers and Civilians is critical to the Army's ability to solve complex problems and connect with people around the world. Army senior leaders view diversity as a military necessity and contributor to sustaining a cohesive fighting force”.

Focusing on the most important benefit the Army has to offer Hispanics, he stated: “The Army is an institution that has explored and secured our frontiers, built the infrastructure on which our Nation’s prosperity depends, and taken on the biggest threats our Nation has faced in moments of crisis. As Hispanics, and American citizens, we must step forward and address the needs of our country to shepherd our Army into the future. The Army's mission is difficult and important, and no institution places greater trust in its people, and provides greater support for families, than the United States Army”.

Keynote Address, Latina Symposium

Honorable Mary Sally Matiella - Assistant Secretary of the Army

Honorable Dr. Mary Sally Matiella - Assistant Secretary of the Army, Financial Management and Comptroller - Washington, DC

Dr. Matiella was born in Three Rivers, Texas. Her parents and three of her grandparents were also born in Texas, and her maternal grandmother was born in Mexico.

“Hispanics are very loyal to their community; i.e. family, friends, leadership. Since the Army is a community that also values loyalty, trust, and professionalism, it is highly regarded by the Hispanic Community. Hispanics can flourish in the Army and will reciprocate with loyalty, trust and professionalism”.

Dr. Mary Sally Matiella, Office of the Secretary of the Army, Financial Management and Comptroller (ASA FM&C), advises the Secretary of the Army and Chief of Staff, on all matters related to Army financial management. She oversees the development, formulation, and implementation of policies, procedures and programs for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of overall resources in the Department of the Army. She is also responsible for the formulation and submission of the Army budget to Congress and the American people.

On November 23, 2009, President Barack H. Obama nominated Dr. Matiella as Assistant Secretary of the Army, Financial Management and Comptroller, and she was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on February 11, 2010. Prior to her appointment, Dr. Matiella served as Assistant Chief Financial Officer for Accounting for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). She was responsible for the payment of over $40 billion in annual grants, loans and subsidies, and the consolidation and submission of quarterly and annual financial statements to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). She ensured HUD was in full compliance with government legislation, Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), and other governmental budget and accounting standards. Under her leadership, HUD earned ‘unqualified’ audit opinions each fiscal year and received all ‘green’ ratings from OMB for its accounting practices.

In December 2001, Dr. Matiella entered the Senior Executive Service (SES) and served as the Chief Financial Officer for the USDA Forest Service. She oversaw the formulation and execution of a $4 billion annual budget, which funded the management of 200 million acres of national forest and grasslands. Under her leadership, the Forest Service received its first ever ‘clean’ audit opinion in FY 2002 and the GAO, April 2003 report, recognized the Forest Service for “Significant Improvement in Financial Reporting.”

Her parents were very self sufficient and raised her to be self sufficient, but also empathetic. She was raised with the belief that God had a hand in our good fortune, so not to be prideful. Kindness was taught and rewarded.

She loves Tex-Mex food the best and likes to make tacos and enchiladas for guests.

Son Tropical musical group

Son Tropical

Son Tropical, a component of the Army Field Band, is an eleven-piece ensemble made up of members of America’s Big Band — the Jazz Ambassadors.

It performs a wide repertoire of Afro-Cuban and Latin songs, including music from New York City, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, and selections with South American influences. Salsa, Latin-Jazz, Cha Cha, Guajira, Puerto Rican, and Peruvian rhythms are among the many styles that comprise this group’s exciting sound.

Drawing from such Latin music icons as Eddie Palmieri, Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, the Fania All-Stars, and Rubén Blades, as well as modern masters Ralph Irizarry, Timbalaye, Spanish Harlem Orchestra, and Oscar Hernández, Son Tropical is dedicated to taking the music of Afro-Cuban culture to the grassroots of the American people.

Major Carmen J. Rosado

Major Carmen J. Rosado - 403rd and 404th Regional Support Team Chief U.S. Army Sustainment Command

Maj. Carmen J. Rosado was honored on 6 September as a recipient of the 2012 Latina Symposium Distinguished Military Service Awards. Maj. Rosado, pictured with Texas Congressman Silvestre Reyes during the Ceremony, was born and raised in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico until she joined the service in 1998. She considers being with her family and boating in Puerto Rico as the best times of her life.

“The U.S. Army is the place where we come and meet our goals. It brings so many opportunities to the Hispanic community, like getting a better education and helping them to accomplish their goals. That is why I’m so glad to serve this equal opportunity country, Go Army”.

In 1998 Maj. Rosado initially served as an enlisted Soldier as a Logistical Specialist for four and a half years. After complete Basic Training with Alpha Company, 2d Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment, Fort Jackson, South Carolina and Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at Alpha Company 244th Quartermaster, Fort Lee, Virginia. She served with 299th Forward Support Battalion, the 1st Infantry Division Schweinfurt, Germany and deployed to Task Force Falcon during the Peacekeeping Mission in Kosovo 1999. She served with 514th Maintenance Company in 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, New York. Maj. Rosado graduate of the Primary Leadership Development Course, Ft Drum, New York. She later received a Regular Army Commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Ordnance Corps through the Officer Candidates School program at Fort Benning, Georgia in 2002. Maj. Rosado graduated from Interamerican University of Puerto Rico, with a bachelor degree in Marketing and Business Administration.

Upon graduation from Ordnance Officer Basic Course, Maj. Rosado was assigned to 501st Forward Support Battalion (FSB), 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, Friedberg, Germany. She served as the Ground Platoon Leader for Bravo Company, 501st FSB, Supply Support Activity (SSA) Platoon Leader for Alpha Company 501st FSB, and Support Operation Maintenance Officer during the successful deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF-01). Following attendance at the Combined Logistic Captain Course CLC3, she was assigned to 35th Support Battalion (CSSB), Sagami DEPOT, Japan, as the Planning Officer for the Support Operation. While she was assigned to 35th CSSB she deployed as Officer in Charge for the first time ever of 35th CSSB history to the National Training Center (NTC) in order to support the 2/25 Stryke Brigade for their NTC rotation in 2007. Upon redeployment she served as the Battalion Adjutant Officer until 2008. She subsequently assignment was 16th Special Troops Battalion, 16th Sustainment Brigade, Bamberg Germany. She served as the Headquarters and Headquarters Company Commander and Support Operation Division Liaison during the successful deployment to OIF 08-10 with 16th SB as Support Operation Liaison Officer for 1st Armored Division and 25th Infantry Division (Multi-National Division-North) at COB Speicher, Tikrit, Iraq. Maj. Rosado’s current as assigned as the Team Chief for the 404th Regional Support Team (RST) U.S. Army Sustainment Command.

Maj. Rosado military schooling includes: The Combined Logistics Officer’s Advanced Courses CLC3 class 2006, The Ordnance Officer Basic Course (2002).

Maj. Rosado military awards and decorations include: The Army Presidential Unit Citation, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal with seven oak leaf clusters, Army Achievement Medal with four oak leaf clusters, Good Conduct Medal, Army Forces Expeditionary Medal, Kosovo Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal (1BSS), Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Ribbon four oak leaf clusters, NATO Kosovo Medal.

Some of her favorite Latin American foods are seafood with tostones (plantain fritters), rice and beans, pastelillos de guayaba (guava pastries).

Ms. Vera García

Ms. Vera García - Deputy Director, Civilian Personnel Directorate US Army in Europe, Civilian Personnel Directorate

Recipient of the 2012 Latina Symposium’s Distinguised Military Service Award, Ms. García was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. Her parents and grandparents spoke Spanish among themselves at home but addressed her and her siblings in English to ensure they spoke English well. She is a second generation American; her grandparents were from Mexico.

Ms. García began her Federal career in 1975 as a claims clerk with the Social Security Administration in Laredo, Texas. Subsequently, she progressed through several professional positions, working for the Air Force Air Logistics Center and the Air Force Electronic Security Command in San Antonio, Texas, the US Office of Personnel Management in Washington, DC, Minneapolis, MN, and Chicago IL, before joining the US Army in Europe (USAREUR), over a period of almost 30 years of Federal Service.

Before arriving in Europe in June of 2004, Ms. García was the Director of the Office of Personnel Management’s Chicago Services Branch leading its nationwide testing program with approximately 1000 staff members and intermittent test administrators located throughout the United States. This program included the administration of the ASVAB, DoD’s entrance examination, for approximately 800,000 potential military recruits per year.

In 2004, Ms. García joined the staff of the US Army in Europe’s Civilian Personnel Directorate. She was promoted to chief of its Workforce Effectiveness Branch in March of 2005. In January 2006, Vera was appointed chief of the U.S. Personnel Programs Division in the same directorate where she was responsible for the civilian personnel policy programs applicable to all US Army civilian employees in the command, downrange regions where Army in Europe civilians are deployed, and other Army Commands following USAREUR policies.

In April 2012, Ms. García was appointed Deputy Director of Human Resources at USAREUR. With the director, she shares in the planning, direction and management of all phases of the total US and local national (LN) personnel administration program in the European theater. She is responsible for formulating and issuing policy covering local national employees employed by the US Army as well as policies unique to the European theater for US Army civilians in theater.

One unique tradition to many Mexican American families is the making of tamales at Christmas. “In my family the rule is: if you want to eat them, you have to help make them, so I have been spreading masa since I was a child”.

There are hardly any TexMex dishes she doesn't like. From menudo and barbacoa, to caldo de rez and fajitas, or frijoles refritos with a tortilla de maíz, her limited Spanish certainly doesn't hurt her when it comes to ordering Mexican food!

“Aside from providing a minority perspective on issues in the workplace, a Hispanic presence reminds individuals that there are qualified Hispanics for all types of positions, and helps them see the vast majority of similarities over differences between individuals of all ethnicities”.

“I believe that the Army, as well as the Federal Government in general, provides Hispanics with a way to serve their country while raising many Hispanic families into the middle class. The breadth of professional and educational opportunities for employees is vast. I started my career as a GS-2 clerk with the Social Security Administration. From agency to agency, DoD Department to another, opportunities for growth, learning, and promotion continually presented themselves. Army has been no different; I hope to finish my career continuing to grow in ways that serve Army”.

Ms. Garcia earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Texas at San Antonio, and holds a Masters of Public Administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

Vice Admiral Richard H. Carmona

Vice Adm. Richard H. Carmona

Vice Adm. Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., FACS, was sworn in as the 17th surgeon general of the U.S. Public Health Service on Aug. 5, 2002. Born and raised in New York City, Carmona dropped out of high school and enlisted in the Army in 1967. While enlisted he earned his General Equivalency Diploma, then joined the Army's Special Forces, ultimately becoming a combat-decorated Vietnam veteran. After leaving active duty, Carmona attended Bronx Community College, of the City University of New York, where he earned his associate of arts degree. He later graduated from the University of California, San Francisco, with a bachelor of science degree (1977) and medical degree (1979). At the University of California Medical School, Carmona was awarded the prestigious gold-headed cane as the top graduate. He also earned a master of public health degree from the University of Arizona (1998).

Born and raised in New York City, Carmona dropped out of high school and enlisted in the Army in 1967. While enlisted he earned his General Equivalency Diploma, then joined the Army's Special Forces, ultimately becoming a combat-decorated Vietnam veteran.

Lieutenant General Edward Baca

Lt. Gen. Edward Baca

Edward Baca enlisted in the Army in November of 1956 with the 726th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion of the New Mexico Army National Guard. Upon graduation from Officers Candidate School in July 1962, he was assigned as a platoon leader of the 3631st Maintenance Company. Soon after, he volunteered for active duty and for overseas deployment to Vietnam. Baca was released from active duty in 1966 and returned to the New Mexico Army National Guard, where he assumed command of the 3631st. In 1977 Baca became the state military personnel officer and was assigned the state assistant, G-1. A short time later, he was appointed the adjutant general, New Mexico National Guard. Commanding both the Army and Air National Guard of New Mexico, Baca led the state guard to a position of national prominence as a vital component of the "total force."

Baca spearheaded a nationwide National Guard force modernization effort and directed the first fielding of the Chaparral and Hawk missile battalions in the Reserve. The National Guard Bureau designated New Mexico's award-winning drug demand reduction program as a pilot for all states and in October of 1994, Baca was promoted to lieutenant general and assigned as chief, National Guard Bureau, a position he held until his retirement in 1998.

Commanding both the Army and Air National Guard of New Mexico, Baca led the state guard to a position of national prominence as a vital component of the "total force."

General Richard E. Cavazos

Gen. Richard E. Cavazos

Richard E. Cavazos earned his commission as a distinguished graduate from the ROTC program at Texas Technological University in 1951. During the Korean War, as a member of the 65th Infantry, Cavazos won the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroic actions during an attack on Hill 142. Later, he attended the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, the British Staff College and the Armed Forces Staff College.

In 1967, Cavazos commanded 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry, in Vietnam. His valiant leadership of that unit in the attack at Loc Ninh earned him a second Distinguished Service Cross. After Vietnam, Cavazos served as commander, 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, and commander, 9th Infantry Division. In 1980, he became the innovative commander of III Corps. In 1982, Cavazos assumed command of the U.S. Army Forces Command and earned his fourth star, making him the first Hispanic four-star general in the Army. His early support for the National Training Center and his involvement in the development of the Battle Command Training Program enormously influenced and advanced the Army's warfighting capabilities.

Cavazos won the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroic actions during an attack on Hill 142 during the Korean War.

Staff Sergeant Roy Benavidez

Staff Sgt. Roy Benavidez

On the morning of May 2, 1968, a 12-man Special Forces reconnaissance team was inserted by helicopters in a dense jungle west of Loc Ninh, Vietnam, to gather intelligence about confirmed large-scale enemy activity. Shortly after arriving, the team met heavy enemy resistance, and requested emergency extraction. Three helicopters attempted to extract them, but were unable to land due to intense small-arms and anti-aircraft fire.

Staff Sgt. Roy Benavidez was at the forward operating base in Loc Ninh, monitoring the operation by radio when the helicopters returned to off-load wounded crewmembers and to assess aircraft damage. Benavidez voluntarily boarded a returning aircraft to assist in another extraction attempt. Realizing that all the team members were either dead or wounded and unable to move to the pickup zone, he directed the aircraft to a nearby clearing where he jumped from the hovering helicopter, and ran approximately 75 meters under withering small-arms fire to the crippled team.

Prior to reaching the team's position he was wounded in his right leg, face and head. Despite these painful injuries, he took charge, repositioning the team members and directing their fire to facilitate the landing of an extraction aircraft, and the loading of wounded and dead team members. He then threw smoke canisters to direct the aircraft to the team's position. Despite his severe wounds and under intense enemy fire, he carried and dragged half of the wounded team members to the awaiting aircraft. He then provided protective fire by running alongside the aircraft as it moved to pick up the remaining team members. As the enemy's fire intensified, he hurried to recover the body and classified documents of the dead team leader. When he reached the leader's body, Benavidez was severely wounded by small-arms fire in the abdomen and grenade fragments in his back. At nearly the same moment, the aircraft pilot was mortally wounded and his helicopter crashed.

Although in extremely critical condition due to his multiple wounds, Benavidez secured the classified documents and made his way back to the wreckage, where he aided the wounded out of the overturned aircraft and gathered the stunned survivors into a defensive perimeter. Under increasing enemy automatic weapons and grenade fire, he moved around the perimeter, distributing water and ammunition to the weary men, and re-instilling in them a will to live and fight.

Facing a rapid buildup of enemy opposition against his beleaguered team, Benavidez mustered his remaining strength, calling in tactical air strikes and directing fire from supporting gunships to suppress the enemy's fire and so permit another extraction attempt. He was wounded again in his thigh by small-arms fire while administering first aid to a wounded team member just before another extraction helicopter was able to land. On his second trip with the wounded, he was attacked by an enemy soldier, who clubbed him in the head and arms. After killing the soldier, Benavidez continued under devastating fire to carry the wounded to the helicopter. Upon reaching the aircraft, he spotted and killed two enemy soldiers who were rushing the helicopter from an angle that prevented the helicopter door gunner from firing on them. With little strength remaining, he made one last trip to the perimeter to ensure that all classified material had been collected or destroyed, and to bring in the remaining wounded. Only then, in extremely serious condition from numerous wounds and loss of blood, did he allow himself to be pulled into the extraction aircraft.

Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sgt. Roy Benavidez, saved the lives of fellow soldiers while under heavy enemy attack and after sustaining several wounds while assisting on a team extraction in Vietnam on 2 May 1968.

Sergeant Jose Lopez

Sgt. Jose Lopez

On a cold winter day in Belgium in 1945, Sgt. Jose Lopez, a native of Mission, Texas, saved his entire company, which was surrounded by enemy troops. Under intense tank and artillery fire, Lopez manned a heavy machine gun by himself, holding off two groups of Germans and protecting his badly outnumbered company.

Then for a second time, the Germans tried to outflank his company, forcing him to move his machine gun to a more favorable defensive position. He momentarily blown over by the concussion from enemy fire, but soon reset his gun and continued his Sgt. Jose Lopezdeadly and effective fire. As his company was pulling back, Lopez held off the Germans yet again, continuing to fire the machine gun, amidst a hail of enemy fire. Lopez remained at his position, firing until his ammunition was exhausted. At this point he returned to his company and they withdrew successfully, were reinforced and then returned to successfully repel the German advance.

Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Jose Lopez, single-handedly held off a German horde and killed over 35 Nazi soldiers in Belgium on 17 December 1944.

Loreta Janeta Velázquez

Loreta Janeta Velázquez

Loreta Janeta Velázquez was a Cuban-born woman who masqueraded as a male Confederate soldier during the Civil War. She enlisted in the Confederate Army in 1861, without her soldier-husband's knowledge. She fought at Bull Run, Ball's Bluff and Fort Donelson, but her gender was discovered while in New Orleans and she was discharged. Undeterred, she reenlisted and fought at Shiloh, until unmasked once more. She then became a spy, working in both male and female guises. Her husband died during the war and she remarried three more times; being widowed in each instance.

Loreta Janeta Velázquez enlisted in the Confederate Army in 1861, without her soldier-husband's knowledge. She fought at Bull Run, Ball's Bluff and Fort Donelson, but her gender was discovered while in New Orleans and she was discharged.

Colonel Don Bernardo de Galvez

Col. Don Bernardo de Galvez

As a young captain in the Spanish militia (1769-1771), Don Bernardo de Galvez fought the Apache Indians in Texas. He learned to respect them and to treat them fairly rather than to oppress them, as was so often the case at that time. He would later be known as a man of honor by other Indian tribes along the Mississippi valley.

In 1776, de Galvez, now 30, was appointed colonel of the Spanish regiment in Louisiana. Despite the lack of a formal agreement, de Galvez supported U.S. forces, which were fighting Great Britain for their independence. He provided them cattle from Spanish herds in Texas and sold weapons and other supplies to U.S. agents, who shipped them by road and river to Philadelphia. De Galvez fought several battles in and around the Florida territory and eventually reclaimed the entire peninsula for Spain, as well as securing the valuable Spanish trade routes in the Gulf of Mexico.

Americans remembered him for the assistance he provided during their time of greatest need. Galveston, Texas is named after him, as was Santa Maria de Galvez, the previous name of Pensacola Bay.

De Galvez fought several battles in and around the Florida territory and eventually reclaimed the entire peninsula for Spain, as well as securing the valuable Spanish trade routes in the Gulf of Mexico.