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NLS Distinguished
Military Service Awards
NLS Distinguished Military Service Awards
NLS Distinguished Military Service Awards
NLS Distinguished Military Service Awards
NLS Distinguished Military Service Awards
NLS Distinguished Military Service Awards
NLS Distinguised Military Service Awards 2008

Celebrating Diversity in the Armed Forces!

Whether they are members of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, National Guard or Civil Servants, these Latinas undertake an extraordinary role in the military service and work every day to broaden and ensure equal opportunity within the force. This year’s honorees reflect their rich Hispanic heritage and they execute several activities that have distinguished them as role models in their communities and advocates for the advancement of Latinas in their respective branch. From leading a platoon in the battle field to flying an aircraft to developing departmental policies, they are advancing the status of Latinas worldwide.

“I realized I wanted to make a career out of the Army when I was in for 10 years,” says Sgt. First Class Dolores Rivera. “I came to really love what I did and enjoyed the Army day to day life.”

It was August 18, 1989, at the age of 19 when Rivera signed on as a military personnel management specialist, known today as a human resources specialist.

Sergeant First Class Dolores Rivera
U.S. Army

Today, she has distinguished herself by outstanding performance as non-commissioned officer-in-charge of personnel services for the 52nd Signal Battalion in Stuttgart, Germany. Her role is to assist soldiers submit their actions, process their awards and assist them to be promoted. Not only she provides guidance and direction in the states but also abroad when she was assigned to Korea. “I was able to groom them and watch them grow from a timid Private to a strong competent Sergeant,” she explains. “That was one of the best tours that I have had in my 19 years in the Army.”

Certainly challenges will always exist and one of the biggest challenges Rivera has had to face is balancing her role as a single mother, her job and separation from her family. “There have been times when I was not able to make an awards assembly due to my military duties, I have had to make compromises and many apologies to my daughter, separation from her always has been and will be a challenge,” she says. “I always worry about her even though I know she is in good hands.”

Nonetheless, Rivera believes to have acquired and develop many skills from the military, from inner strength, to independence and self-confidence, these life lessons are invaluable and today has prepared her for anything in her ever-changing career. “If I did not join the military I don’t think I would have the inner strength to live overseas to Alaska, Korea and Germany,” she says. “I have accomplished many things on my own that I was proud of and never dreamed that I could do.” Rivera believes that within the next 10 years Latinas will become strong and powerful in the workforce. “Latinas already run a very successful household and if they transfer their management skills from running a home and raising a family into the workforce they can become very successful and a good asset to any employer or company.” Her advice to the Latina is: “Don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t do anything. As long as you believe you can do it, you can succeed.”

Shirley A. Hill
U.S. Army

With over 28 years of service with the United States Army, Ms. Shirley A. Hill began serving as an Army civilian since February 1980. As the Equal Employment Officer for the U.S. Army Headquarters, Communications-Electronics Life Cycle Management Command at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, she is committed to promoting education programs and forums to improve the recruitment, development and retention of Hispanics. Not only she enjoys assisting others to resolve and research legal issues but enjoys being at a decisive leadership position that enables her to accomplish many goals.

“As an Army EEO officer, I have strived to provide informational forums which fostered Hispanic excellence and representation,” she says. “Throughout my 28-year career in Equal Employment Opportunity, I have demonstrated my capability to successfully manage superior EEO programs and have strived to benefit Hispanics and others in many localities around our country and the world.”

From being the first Hispanic EEO officer to work for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, New Hampshire to the Hispanic Employment Program manager for Army Materiel Communications Command in Rock Island, Illinois in which she established the first sexual harassment Hotline in the Army, today, she continues to direct a positive and proactive EEO program with the purpose of advancing it to new horizons.

With dedication and passion, Hill has demonstrated a strong commitment to her community through leadership. She believes Latinas can excel in any field they desire. “Learning about their chosen field, working hard, being persistent, being aggressive in their quest to progress in the workforce ... actively seeking positions, and concentrating on their chosen career requirements, is of utmost importance in reaching their ultimate vision/goal,” she says. “Having mentors and people who believe in them is also important.”

After all, Hill hopes to be considered “a legacy of a Latina who helped and protected people and made a positive difference to others; regardless of race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age or disability.”

“I was 17 years old and had to convince my parents to sign for me, since I was too young to enlist without my parents consent,” explains Leticia Soto, assistant public work officer at the Naval Station in Norfolk, Virginia.

Coming from a family of six children, money for college was difficult for her parents; therefore she enlisted in the Navy for four years. After realizing how much she enjoyed travelling and the work experience she decided to reenlist and took advantage of the tuition assistance program, went to college at night and applied for a program that allowed her to get a commission.

Among her many duties, Soto has managed the maintenance, repair and construction of 2,800 facilities valued at over $4.8 billion, including 15 combatant piers for five nuclear powered aircraft carriers and 78 other warships. She has effectively led and directed the efforts of 1,200 government civilian employees and 50 military personnel in the planning and execution of broad-spectrum facility services to include utilities, transportation, and ship support.

“I have been fortunate to have worked for leaders that have given me the opportunity to do the most challenging jobs in my career field,” she says. “Knowing that they believe I can succeed at these jobs has instilled confidence in me and pushed me to challenge myself to accomplish more.”

Lieutenant Leticia Soto
U.S. Navy

Not only has she had the opportunity to be a leader and make an impact on the Navy’s operational readiness but has acquired a deep appreciation for Freedom in America that according to her believes would not necessarily be possible in the civilian sector. “I enjoy my job and it’s easy to stay at work to complete one last item and not realize that I am sacrificing precious times and I can be spending time with my daughters,” she says. “My daughters inspire me to want to be the best at my job. I want them to be proud of their mother and see for themselves that hard work does pay big dividends.”

Nonetheless, she believes that the best rewards in life come after hard work. “Latinas have strong passion and dedication to achieving goals that will allow us to transcend through barriers of race and gender and lead us to senior positions of corporate America and politics,” she says. “Seek a mentor and always be looking for opportunities for increased responsibilities. Enjoy your job and have fun.”

Esther Thatcher
U.S. Navy

With more than 20 years of experience as an engineer, leader, mentor and an advocate for diversity, Esther Thatcher started working at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division in Newport after graduating from college, after working at NUWC for five years, she realized she wanted to stay here for the duration. “I enjoyed the work, like the people and there are always many opportunities,” she says. “I wanted to give back to my country in some way and I was interested in the work that NUWC did for the Navy.”

As the acting branch head for Development Software in the Sonar and Sensors Department at Division Newport, Thatcher leads a team of 18 engineers and scientists working on diverse projects that include at-sea submarine and surface sonar systems and concept systems on the drawing boards. “The best part of my job is being able to provide the surface Navy with in-service engineering support for their sonar systems so that they can complete their missions,” she says. “The hardest part is trying to do more work for less funding with less people.”

Although she enjoys math and science, there are some difficulties that she has had to face in her career. One of the biggest challenges has been balancing family and professional life. “It hasn’t been easy raising a family and working in a demanding field,” she says.

“Another challenge has been leaving my family to travel for work. I wouldn’t be able to do it without my husband’s help and support.”

Involved in educational outreach programs, job fair recruiting, placement for college internships and mentoring new professionals, Thatcher foresees Latinas making great strides in the next 10 years. “They will be in more leadership roles and continue to be more influential,” she says. “They will continue to develop the skills necessary to take advantage of life’s opportunities.”

Her advice for the Latina entering the workforce is to always do their best, to continue their education and take advantage of the opportunities whenever they present themselves. Upon leaving her post, Thatcher would like to mentor and support the next generation of engineers, to see them develop both personally and professionally. “I want to be a good role model to them and help realize their true potential.”

“The best part of my job is leading Marines and looking out for their welfare while accomplishing the Mission,” states Master Sgt. Morayma Rodriguez. “Every day I come to work making sure that I’m going to make a difference for the young Marines. They are the ones that make me successful. Making things better for the young Marines makes my job worth every minute of my time. I looked forward to every promotion; every promotion means more Marines under my charge which in turn means more Marines that I could take care of.”

It was October 16, 1989 out of Eagle Pass, TX at the age of 17 when Rodriguez decided to join the military. As she recalls the story of her enlistment, she remembered her aspirations to be part of the military at a very early age and it was her oldest brother, Camilo A. Camarillo, who inspired her to join. “He was in a military academy in Mexico, (equivalent to the ROTC here in the states),” she says. “I remember, as a 5-year-old seeing him march with his military uniform neatly pressed. I knew then I wanted to wear a military uniform but had no idea what the future was going to bring.”

Thirteen years later, her dream came true when she joined the Marine Corps. By now, she was inspired not only by the blue uniform the Marine Corps is known for but also the opportunities ahead. “To me it was a sense of pride and a way of giving back to the country we had migrated to back in 1979. It was my contribution as an American.”

Master Sergeant Morayma M. Rodriguez
U.S. Marine Corps

After two deployments to Iraq, one during the war and one deployment at sea with Marine Service Support Group 13 (Singapore, Kenya, Oman, Qatar, Pakistan, Bahrain, Thailand, and Australia) Rodriguez learned to appreciate life, acquired an extended family, developed leadership skills and the opportunity to work with Marines from different cultures, background and beliefs. “I think I get my strength from my character. Accepting that the Marine Corps is a traditional male service and growing thick skin. I have excelled because I didn’t allow anyone to tell me what I could or couldn’t do, I just did it. Action speaks louder than words,” she says. “As a Master Sergeant of Marines I tell my Marines that if I can leave them with something this is what I want to leave them with: Always work for the young Marines, and if you can make a difference and have a positive impact on one Marine, even if it is only one, then you have done your job for the day.”


By Gloria Romano