Tag Archives: Southwestern Division

Hispanic Heritage Month – Embracing, Enriching, and Enabling America

Brig. Gen. David C. Hill
Brig. Gen. David C. Hill – Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Southwestern Division

Each year, we observe Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 to recognize their many contributions to our nation’s legacy. Sept. 15 was chosen as the starting point for Hispanic Heritage Month because it is the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries—Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico declared its independence on Sept. 16, and Chile on Sept. 18.

This year’s theme, chosen by the National Council of Hispanic Employment Managers is: “Embracing, Enriching, and Enabling America.”

The theme invites us to reflect on Hispanic Americans’ not only embracing America and its culture but also bringing their own traditions, culture, language, values, work ethics and ideals to the vitality and meaningful legacy in our Nation’s cultural framework.

Hispanic Americans have long played an essential role in our country’s remarkable culture, heritage, and the building of this great nation. They also have a proud and distinguished history in the U.S. Army and Corps of Engineers.

The number of Hispanic Americans serving their country in the U.S. armed forces continues to grow. In 2010, Hispanics represented the third largest ethnic group among the nation’s 21.8 million veterans, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Within the Army Corps of Engineers, we have slightly less than 800 members of Hispanic descent, and around 100 within the Southwestern Division. They serve in a wide variety of positions, across all career fields and pay grades, both civilian and in military uniform.

This month the Army will reflect on the accomplishments of Hispanics Americans like General Richard E. Cavazos the first Hispanic 4-Star General and Brig. Gen. Carmelita Vigil-Schimenti the first Hispanic female to attain rank of general.  The Army will also focus on unselfish contributions like those made by Distinguished Service Cross recipient Cpl. Aristides Sosa, 65th Engineer Battalion, 25th Infantry Division, during the Vietnam War. Sosa purposely jumped on top of a grenade during the Tet Offensive to save a comrade.

One great example of the Hispanic American influence in our Army is the 65th Infantry Regiment. Based in Puerto Rico, the unit was the only all-Hispanic unit to serve during the Korean War. Nicknamed the “Borinqueneers” in honor of a native Puerto Rican Indian tribe, the 65th displayed true heart and valor during the Korean War. During a three-year period from 1950 – 1953, the unit participated in nine major campaigns, earning a Presidential Unit Citation, a Meritorious Unit Commendation, and two Republic of Korea Unit Citations. Individual unit members earned four Distinguished Service Crosses and 124 Silver Stars.

I ask you to share in this special annual tribute by learning and celebrating the generations of Hispanic and Latino Americans who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society.

Q & A with the SWD deputy commander

OllarQ. You have been the deputy commander for three months now. Are there some things that have really grabbed your attention as you have observed the workings of the Southwestern Division?

A. I think the size and scope of the Southwestern Division, and the impact of our projects on the American people, have honestly been impressive. The entire state of Texas by itself is a whole lot of territory. Throw in Oklahoma, most of Arkansas, parts of Missouri and Kansas (and then reconfigure for the military missions), and it’s remarkable. Add to that the benefit that our projects provide to the communities—as well as the interaction that I’ve seen between the Army Corps of Engineers and the communities—and there is a lot of story to tell there. When you work your piece of it every day, you might not see the overall impact. But from my perspective, what the Southwestern Division team accomplishes is tangible and it is value added.

Q. With short trips to three of the four Districts under your belt, any takeaways from those trips?

A. The dedication that USACE employees have to mission accomplishment. The professionalism displayed by every employee I have interacted with from the park rangers at Lewisville and Table Rock lakes, the staffs at the district offices and the lock operators on the White River in Arkansas.

Q. This is your second assignment with the Army Corps of Engineers but first with a civil works mission, which is unique in the Army, as it is composed mainly of a civilian workforce. What are your thoughts on this?

A. Civilians are a critical component of the U.S. Army. The Army employs about 260,000 civilians, which is about half of our active duty force. So I have worked with civilians my entire career. The bonus with the Army Corps of Engineers is the wide array of skill sets and the professional and technical expertise of this workforce. With just about every type of STEM background, every kind of engineering degree, half of our workforce with an academic degree and 71 percent with some college—the Southwestern Division is a real powerhouse of human capital! Who wouldn’t be proud to be a leader of this kind of workforce?

Q. We understand you come from a military family. Tell us a little about yourself.

A. I am the son of a career soldier and the oldest of four kids. My father retired as a sergeant first class in 1988, the year I left to begin my military career by attending West Point Prep School and eventually the United States Military Academy, where I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. I am married to a wonderful spouse who hails from Baton Rouge, and we are blessed with two beautiful daughters and a brindle boxer named Fred.

Q. Is it true that you accepted this assignment because you are a diehard Dallas Cowboys fan?

A. That is an evil question! I enjoy all sports, but I love college and professional football and rugby. I am a diehard Army Football fan and we will BEAT NAVY this year. I also follow the Louisiana State University Tigers and love Southeastern Conference football. My professional football team is the Denver Broncos.

Q. Anything else you would like to add?

A. I knew coming into the job that I would have big shoes to fill, as Col. R.J. Muraski had six total years in the Division and three years as the deputy commander. I have felt welcomed to the SWD family as I make my way around the various offices and cubicles, and I am often reminded by the SWD folks that I meet that everyone has been new to USACE at some point, so they can relate as I learn new acronyms and new faces. I am excited to be here in Dallas and look forward to getting out to the districts and meeting the team. I feel that it is truly an honor and a privilege to serve with the SWD Pacesetter Team, and I look forward working with and getting to know everyone!