By F. Michael Sena

I am optimistic about the state of Hispanics in the U.S. military, and across the Defense Department’s total force. Throughout history, Hispanics have demonstrated great courage in military conflicts, dating back to the American Revolutionary War, when General Bernardo de Galvez assisted General George Washington in the American colonists’ fight for independence. ¹

From the Revolutionary War to present-day missions around the world, Hispanic Americans have served and continue to serve with honor, valor and integrity to uphold the ideals of freedom, liberty and justice. These contributions are evident in the service of 60 Hispanic heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice and were awarded the United States Military Medal of Honor. ²

Hispanic Americans continue to be integral to U.S. military fortitude. Today, one in every seven active duty Service members is of Hispanic descent. Within the Defense Department’s civilian workforce, Hispanics represent one in every 15 civilians. Among our military women, the number of Hispanic active-duty service women has increased by 38.7 percent since 2012.

Our nation’s military is a well-educated force and more educated than the population it serves.³ Expanding one’s educational aperture is fundamental to success and is the foundation for professional growth and socioeconomic advancement. A highly-educated and diverse populous leads to creativity, innovation, economic growth, and enhances national security.

According to a 2016 Nielsen study, “Latinas have made the most dramatic gains in education, as college enrollment rates among female Hispanics graduating from high school now outpace both non-Hispanic whites and African-Americans.” The National Center for Education Statistics reports that, of Latinas who graduated high school in 2012-2014, 74 percent are now enrolled in college. The Nielsen study further states, “The higher education level is helping drive positive economic results, including rising household income and greater household expenditures.” 4
A military service career can serve as a stepping stone in the development of leadership competencies and help in achieving higher education goals needed to compete in today’s global economy. Although the number of Hispanics serving within the Department is growing, there is room for improvement, particularly among the officer corps and among civilian senior leadership positions.

I am optimistic that with projected demographic trends and increases of Hispanics in colleges, Hispanic representation will continue to improve across the Defense Department, including more Hispanics in leadership roles. To become more competitive for leadership positions, however, Hispanics must continue to pursue career opportunities and expand their education, competencies and skill sets. They need to seek out, as well as become mentors and sponsors in an effort to grow our future leaders.

Furthermore, maintaining a competitive science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce is critical to our national security. Within the Defense Department, Hispanics lag among other demographic groups in these career fields. As a nation, we must continue to encourage our youth to pursue higher education in the STEM fields.

By promoting the virtues of hard work, education, and awareness of public service, including military service, together we can enhance the state of all Americans.

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