FORT KNOX, Ky. –
The leaders of U.S. Army Recruiting Command and the 63rd Readiness Division teamed up for a virtual community partner engagement with Hispanic leaders from across the country Oct. 8 as part of Hispanic Heritage Month.
Maj. Gen. Kevin Vereen, USAREC commanding general, and Maj. Gen. Alberto Rosende, 63rd Readiness Division commanding general, discussed Army career opportunities and benefits and addressed some common misperceptions about service.
“Hispanic Soldiers represent the fabric of our United States Army and the fabric of our nation,” Vereen told the group via video chat. “Without the combination of diversity, our Army wouldn’t be what it is today.”
Vereen highlighted the contributions of current and past Hispanic Soldiers, discussed several language training options for applicants for whom English is a second language, and talked about how individuals who are permanent residents of the United States can become naturalized citizens.
“We want to help individuals understand that we can help them overcome barriers that they may think would inhibit their ability to serve,” Vereen said. “We are excited about all the things our Hispanic Soldiers are providing and that they are doing to serve our country and this great profession.”
Rosende, who was born in Cuba and came to the United States with his family as a refugee in 1962, first moved to New York City and then grew up in New Jersey. He said he wanted to serve in the Army since he was about 5 years old. He said he has been on a path of continuous learning throughout his 37-year-career in the U.S. Army Reserve.
“Every Soldier is on a career path,” Rosende said. “A lot of the education is focused on developing the soft skills that we would talk about – the leadership skills and the organizational skills you need to have to be able to be a contributing member of such a large organization.”
Rosende earned a master’s degree while serving, which is a key benefit of military service. Two members of the USAREC Diversity Outreach and Inclusion Team, who both have taken advantage of the education programs while serving, joined the generals on the call and added a personal touch to the event with their own Army stories.
DOIT member Staff Sgt. David Loaiza was born in Colombia and moved to the United States when he was 16 years old.
“I didn’t know all the benefits the Army provides, like paying for college, helping you get citizenship,” Loaiza said. “I had just barely gotten my Green Card when I joined the Army, then my first duty station was Fort Benning, Georgia. I was able to go to Airborne School. A lot of people pay to go skydiving -- and here the Army was paying me to do the same thing. It was an amazing experience!”
He said his motivation to join the Army was to give back to the country that gave him so much and to take care of his family.
“Through the Army, I was able to buy my own home, and the Army pays for that through the [Basic Allowance for Housing],” Loaiza said. “When I am doing my job, I know my family is taken care of.”
Twenty years later, he is still serving and shares his experiences with new recruits as a recruiting NCO in New York City.
Staff Sgt. Raquel Flores, an Army medic and member of the USAREC DOIT, was raised in El Paso, Texas. She joined in 2013 after deciding she didn’t want her parents to have to pay for her to go to college. Through her Army training, she earned the civilian equivalent to EMT Basic and then went on to work in the labor and delivery department in the military hospital at Fort Bliss, Texas.
“Working at the hospital really cemented my love for medicine,” Flores said. “I decided to go back to college using the benefits we have. I was able to get an associate’s degree within a year. I have no student debt; I used tuition assistance.”
She has continued her education and will graduate with her bachelor’s degree in December. Now in Phoenix, Arizona, as a recruiting NCO, she tells potential Soldiers how the Army has changed her life for the better.
Rosende agreed – the Army is a life-changing experience.
“The Army is a great place and great opportunity to begin a career,” Rosende said. “Nobody comes to the Army for a job; they come in as a career-focused individual.”