By Gerry J. GilmoreSeptember 10, 2007
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 10, 2007) - Six military women of Hispanic descent were honored for their service to the nation at Latina Style Magazine's 4th annual awards luncheon held here last Thursday.
The Defense Department co-hosted the event, titled "Latinas in the Global Fight on Terror." The luncheon traditionally heralds other Hispanic-American Heritage Month activities, held Sept. 15 through Oct. 15.
Award recipients represent the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, Marine Corps and the National Guard Bureau. They were selected for recognition by their individual service branches. Notable Hispanic business leaders and entrepreneurs attended the luncheon, which is part of the magazine's annual National Latina Symposium.
The military women were recognized for their "notable contributions, not only to the mission success of the services they represent, but their achievements in the promotion of diversity, equal opportunity and positive human relations," Michael L. Dominguez, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, noted in his luncheon remarks.
This year's awardees are: Army Sgt. Major Venus Carpenter, Navy Lt. J.G. Angela Gonzales, Marine Capt. Edna Rodriguez, Air Force Capt. Zinnia James, Florida Army National Guard Master Sgt. Katherine Perez and Coast Guard Lt. Xochitl Castaneda.
Men and women of all ethnicities can improve and broaden their lives through military or federal civilian service, pointed out Mr. Dominguez, who is a West Point graduate. Women comprise about 15 percent of today's all-volunteer military, and minorities comprise about 36 percent of America's military force, he added, with just over 9 percent being of Hispanic ethnic origin.
"In the past 10 years, the representation of Hispanics in all military pay grades has increased," Mr. Dominguez said. The highest increases realized among company-grade officers and mid-grade noncommissioned officers.
And, although the overall size of the Defense Department's civilian workforce has decreased during the past decade, the number of Hispanic representation has risen slightly, especially within higher civil service grades, Mr. Dominguez said.
Mr. Dominguez said the Defense Department is proud of the progress it has made in hiring more Hispanic servicemembers and civilians. But, he acknowledged the department realizes that more needs to be accomplished in this area.
"We'd like to see more diversity and better representation of all minorities in our senior civilian and military grades," Mr. Dominguez said. "We'd also like to see more minorities and women in some of the key occupations that have a better prospect for leading to more senior ranks and grades."
Mr. Dominguez told Hispanic business leaders and entrepreneurs in attendance that they can assist the department achieve its goal of hiring more Hispanic servicemembers and civilian employees.
"Each of you can help us by telling young people about the opportunities and value of service to our country either in the military ranks or as civil servants," Mr. Dominguez said.
Mr. Dominguez, a former Army officer who now serves as a senior Pentagon civilian, said his father's service in the Air Force had served as a stepping stone for him to attend the United States Military Academy.
"I am standing here as a direct result of the opportunities afforded to me and my father by the armed forces of the United States," he said.
"I'm pretty excited that I can represent the Marine Corps by receiving such a prestigious award," Capt. Rodriguez said after receiving her award plaque and some red roses. Capt. Rodriguez served in Iraq from June 2004 through June 2005 as a budget officer at Camp Victory in Baghdad. Now stationed on Quantico Marine Corp Base, Va., she said she's also "extremely proud" to be Mexican-American.
Sgt. Maj. Carpenter, a senior noncommissioned officer of Puerto Rican descent, works at Army Human Resources Command in Alexandria, Va.
"I'm honored to receive the Latina award," Sgt. Maj. Carpenter said. "I feel very privileged that I was chosen to represent the Army as a Latina."
Marine Brig. Gen. Angela Salinas said the award recipients are a testament "to the great, young Latinas who are serving in our military today. These are the young people, who, whether they serve four years or 24 years, are going to go back to their communities as better citizens."
Brig. Gen. Salinas currently serves as the first woman commanding general of Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego. She also commands the Marine's Western Recruiting Region. As a colonel, she was among the military women honored at the 2005 Latina Style Magazine awards luncheon. Brig. Gen. Salinas traces her roots to Mexico.
(Gerry J. Gilmore writes for American Forces Press Service.)