ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- If business and government are to be successful in the 21st century, they must be inclusive and diverse regarding people, according to a high-ranking federal government official.

Veronica Villalobos, director, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Office of Personnel Management, Washington, D.C., was the guest speaker at the Rock Island Arsenal 2014 Hispanic Heritage Month Observance, Oct. 23, in Heritage Hall.

Villalobos shared her experiences of managing diversity and the lifelong dedication that Hispanics have provided the nation.

This year's theme is "Hispanics: a Legacy of History, a Present of Action, and a Future of Success."

"All the research shows us you end up with something better," Villalobos said citing a professor who concluded that diverse minds coming together resolve issues better.

Villalobos was appointed to the Senior Executive Service in October 2010. In that capacity, she manages OPM's government-wide effort to develop, drive and monitor strategies and initiatives designed to create a more diverse and inclusive federal workforce.

While 8.3 percent of the federal government's 1.8 million employees are Hispanic, only 4.1 percent of those people are in the Senior Executive Service. And, while 43 percent of the federal workforce are women, only 33 percent are SES, she said.

"If you're not included, then you are excluded," she said.

Those in leadership positions need to honor those things that make people unique, Villalobos said. Consequently, employees will want to stay with that organization, bringing more strength to it.

"It's the minds and talents of your people" that will help ensure mission success, she said.

In 2008, she served as the chair of the Federal Hispanic Work Group, which was charged by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with examining the Hispanic community's systemic concerns about federal sector employment and executive development.

The observance also included testimony from Gayla Pacheco, chief, ASC Equal Employment Opportunity Office, and Master Sgt. Sol D. Nevarezberrios, senior enlisted contracting adviser, Army Contracting Command-Rock Island.

Pacheco spoke of growing up in a racially diverse neighborhood that had one thing in common despite cultural differences -- they were all poor. "Today we are the best of friends," she said.

Nevarezberrios told of her Puerto Rican heritage with five uncles drafted in the U.S. military serving in the 65th Infantry Regiment, nicknamed "The Borinqueneers" -- a Puerto Rican regiment of the U.S. Army. The regiment participated in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the "War on Terror". The regiment was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2014.

Kristin Perez of Galesburg, Illinois, sang the National Anthem and later sang two songs in Spanish.

Each year from Sept. 15 - Oct. 15, the U.S. Army community reflects and celebrates the contributions of Hispanic Americans.

Hispanic Heritage Month begins Sept. 15, the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. This month takes into account, the independence day of Mexico on Sept. 16 and Chile on Sept. 18.

As a tribute, a letter was signed by the Secretary of the Army, the Chief of Staff and the Sergeant Major of the Army, encouraging the Army community to plan and execute appropriate commemorative activities to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month.

The Army encourages all to learn and celebrate the contributions of Hispanic Soldiers, civilians and their families to help safeguard the United States.

This year's presidential proclamation, President Barack Obama stated:
"Hispanics are advancing our economy, improving our communities, and bettering our country. During National Hispanic Heritage Month, let us renew our commitment to ensuring ours remains a society where the talents and potential of all its members can be fully realized."

Additional info:

• 2014 Hispanic Heritage Month tri-signed letter

• Hispanic Heritage in the Army

• Presidential Proclamation -- National Hispanic Heritage Month 2014

• Army G-1, Equal Opportunity Branch

• U.S. Army Center for Military History: Hispanic Americans in the U.S. Army

• U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, Office of Diversity and Inclusion

• Recent 17 Hispanic American Medal of Honor Recipients