Six Hispanic-American servicewomen were honored last week for outstanding achievements in the military services and their status as role models during the 2nd annual Latina Style Symposium awards luncheon sponsored by Latina Style magazine and co-hosted by the Defense Department.
The two-day symposium featured roundtable and panel discussions about important issues concerning the more than 7 million Hispanic women in the U. S. work force, including the military and the Defense Department. This year, Latina Style showcased active duty Hispanic women of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and the Coast Guard, and one woman representing the Army and Air National Guard.
As it did last year, DoD used the event as the kick-off for its celebration of Hispanic-American Heritage Month, Sept. 15 through Oct. 15.
Capt. Kathlene Contres, commandant of the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute, which is the Defense Department's center of excellence for equal opportunity and human relations training, is the Navy's highest-ranking Hispanic woman officer on active duty. She maintains a $24 million compound, training more than 1,500 students annually, managing a 15,000-volume reference library of equal opportunity resources and managing the Defense Equal Opportunity Climate Survey used across all DoD agencies.
The Marine Corps' Latina Style plaque recipient is Col. Angela Salinas, the first woman combat service support monitor, the first woman recruiting station commanding officer and the first woman Marine Corps recruiting district commanding officer.
Salinas is the chief of staff for Marine Corps Recruiting Command, "Her leadership directly impacts and provides opportunities for America's Hispanic populace," according to her award citation.
The Army's winner is Lt. Col. Marcela G. Alvarado, the first in her family to graduate from college. Commissioned as a military intelligence officer in 1987, Alvarado has been a platoon leader, executive officer, company commander and an ROTC instructor, and has held various staff-level posts. She recently served as the executive officer for the Army's assistant deputy chief of staff for intelligence, where she became a key member of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse investigation team.
Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Susan R. Ayala was honored for her service as superintendent and senior enlisted adviser for the Air Force Review Boards Agency. Ayala developed internal agency policies for the Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records, the Secretary of the Air Force's Personnel Council and Air Force Civilian Appellate Review Office.
Called the "chief who cares," Ayala climbed to the Air Force's top enlisted grade, and while doing so, she has served in numerous Air Force active duty, Reserve and National Guard positions, officials said.
Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Priscilla Melendez was attending Army warrant officer school and was therefore unable to attend the ceremony. Her boss, Col. Jackie Reaves, commander of the Operational Support Airlift Agency, accepted the award on her behalf.
Melendez was cited for outstanding performance as the agency's senior human resources sergeant while supporting more than 240 soldiers stationed throughout the United States, Germany, Kuwait and Afghanistan.
"She provides outstanding personnel services to the soldiers of her command and she empowers and encourages all members of her team to assist and support each other regardless of their task at hand," the award citation read. The Coast Guard awardee is Petty Officer 1st Class Isabel Paez, who serves on the diversity policy staff and is the ethnic policy adviser to the commandant. Her award citation states that she has been instrumental in the development of the Coast Guard's policy on the use of English and other languages in the workplace.
Paez is spearheading an effort to bring English immersion training to otherwise fully qualified entry-level servicemembers at the Recruit Training Center. She also translates much of the Coast Guard's recruiting information to Spanish in an effort to provide accurate information on the service, its mission and entry requirements to the Spanish-speaking community.
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service