CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Sept. 15 - Oct. 15 is the national observance of Hispanic Heritage Month. Permanently put into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1988, the 30-day period recognizes the culture and contributions of American citizens of Hispanic origins coming from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.
This year’s theme is “Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope.” The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers embraces and celebrates diversity and is dedicated to ensuring equality for all Soldiers, civilians and family members.
Kebeck Marielle Rosario Perez is a Service Project Manager and Contracting Officer Representative for the 81st Readiness Division’s Facilities Investment Services contract. She has been with the Corps for almost six years.
“My job consists of overseeing and managing the FIS contract for the Army Reserves facilities,” she said. “I work with the owner’s and contractor’s representatives as a team to make sure that the contract requirements are met, and the facilities and systems are kept in good condition. The contractor provides preventive maintenance and repairs on things like air conditioning systems, boilers, fire suppression systems, generators, cranes, which are important for the operations of the Army Reserves and National Guard. For example, the National Guard is working with COVID vaccinations on Puerto Rico and after Hurricane María, there have been issues with the power grid. It is critical the generators are maintained properly to provide continuous power to the facilities, so they are able to work in this vital mission.”
Rosario is currently assigned to Region P in Puerto Rico, which is where she is from.
“I studied mechanical engineering at the University of Puerto Rico and was inspired by my neighbor who was a mechanical engineer and my father who worked for Xerox Corporation for over 30 years,” said Rosario. “He not only loved technology but liked to build. We built two wooden terraces at our house. He also taught me how to use the computer and the modem. For most of my career, I have worked in the construction industry with HVAC design. I was working as a mechanical engineer for USACE in the Fort Jackson Residence Office, performing quality assurance inspections and commissioning of HVAC systems for over six years, when the first preventive maintenance contract was awarded. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work in this contract that has opened the door for my current position.”
While Rosario never served in the military, she has ties to military service.
“I was a military spouse,” she said. “My father served. My son is currently serving in the Navy. One of my daughters is in the Army Reserve and her husband is active-duty Army.”
“This month is a time to celebrate and honor Hispanics for their contributions to American society,” said Rosario. “It is very significant that others have opened doors for me with their talents and hard work. They broke through language and cultural barriers to achieve their goals and left a legacy to be treasured. I remember in 2014 when the 65th Infantry Regiment - a unit of Soldiers mostly from Puerto Rico known as Los Borinqueneers - received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award bestowed by Congress. That made me very proud.”
“My family and I usually enjoy the Latin Festival in Columbia, SC,” she said. “We dance to Latin music and eat Latin food. The best part is the comradery with our friends, we have a blast. At that moment, everybody becomes family because we share the common bond of being Hispanics in the USA.”
Having studied and established a career in STEM, Rosario can now offer advice to the next generation.
“My advice for students interested in a career in engineering is to work hard to achieve their goals,” she said. “There are no limits to what can be accomplished if you put in the effort. Many Hispanics have already paved the way, so it’s time for you to leave your legacy for others to follow.”