FORT BENNING, GA – On Wednesday, the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month. The event was hosted by the 197th Infantry Brigade, and the guest of honor was Staff Sgt. (RET) Cesar F. Bautista, former WHINSEC instructor, and successful local business owner, who addressed those in attendance at Marshall Auditorium.
Originally from Puerto Rico, Bautista entered the Army in 2011, after 20 years of being a successful business owner in his native land. Originally a Combat Medic, later he became a Psychological Operations Specialist with the 8th Psychological Operations Group where he supported several United States Southern Command initiatives of counterterrorism, counter-narco-trafficking, and counter-human-trafficking throughout South America.
During his remarks he commented on the 65th Infantry regiment, “Borinqueneers,” and how the Army has shaped his life, during and after his military service.
“As a Combat Medic I had the opportunity to train in South Korea. I remember the mountains and the rough terrain in which I felt exhausted only by carrying my weapon, my rock sack and the Aid Bag that was assigned to me. When I saw the rails that went uphill in the mountains, that as someone pointed out, were used decades ago by the 65th Infantry Regiment to move supplies in and out of trenches in the battlefield; I felt confused. At the moment and from where I was standing, that task seemed impossible, and it didn’t only mark my career as a soldier but also my life as a civilian.
Knowing that soldiers that came from the same Island that I was born, fought in the same terrain that I was standing at, made me want more out of the military, it made me realize that I could become more.
The 65th Infantry Regiment was created in 1899 by the U.S. Congress as a segregated unit composed primarily of Puerto Ricans with mostly continental officers. It went on to serve meritoriously in three wars: World War I, World War II and the Korean War. The unit was nicknamed after “Borinquen”, the word given to Puerto Rico by its original inhabitants, the Taino Indians, meaning “land of the brave lord”.
When they were finally called to the front lines in the Korean War, the men of the 65th performed impressively, earning praise from General MacArthur. They performed a critical role containing the Chinese advance and supporting the U.S. Marines in the aftermath of the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir. Sent to every corner of the peninsula, they showed outstanding resilience and a legendary fierceness as combatants, even as they faced discrimination within the Army.
That is all in the past and this is only half of the story of a unit and is one example of how Hispanic Soldiers occupy a special place in the history of the U.S. Army.
Our ranks are filled with people of different origins and that is what makes us a unique fighting machine; One that has the capability to adapt and accomplish every mission.
That same diversity has followed me through my career and now in my daily taskings and responsibilities with my family, my staff, my costumers and this town in general.
The list of skills that the military will give you is endless. The opportunities that those skills will bring to your life are priceless. Don’t let them pass you by. Taking advantage of every training, developing yourself in areas that you never thought you would and learning how to apply that training, when necessary, will make the difference of living a meaningful life or just living.
I encourage you to not only learn the Army values but to Live by them. Find one that you Identify with, make it part of your character and your life and the other values will follow. Keep your eyes open, to find that opportunity and jump on it, to be as the soldiers of the 65th Infantry Regiment, resilient when faced with unexpected challenges. Trust your leadership, trust yourself and more important, trust that you have been trained to accomplish not only the missions that you have to complete in the military but trust that that training if applied correctly will make you a better person, a well-rounded professional and a productive member of your community,” concluded Bautista.
Col. Patrick Douglas, commander of the 197th “Sledgehammer” brigade, presented a sledgehammer as memento and appreciation for Bautista’s remarks.
He commented, “The event allowed us the opportunity to celebrate the Hispanic Heritage while learning about their long history of service to our nation. Additionally, the event highlighted the strong partnership between Fort Benning and the greater Columbus area.”
After the formal portion of the ceremony, those in attendance were invited to taste Colombian, Honduran, and Peruvian appetizers, prepared by WHINSEC Partner Nation Instructors.