Top Hispanics in the U.S. Military: Celebrating Commitment to Honor, Duty and Country
By Bruce E. Phillips
Jan 18, 2007, 16:10

Hispanics hold some of the most vital and sensitive commands in the U.S. armed forces. Hispanic Engineer & Information Technology magazine profiles some of the men and women defending the country, at home and abroad.

A growing number of Hispanic Americans are reaching the top echelons of the armed forces, serving their country in sensitive leadership positions on both domestic and foreign shores.  In this issue of Hispanic Engineer & Information Technology magazine, we are honored to profile a few of these leaders. 

While not a complete listing of flag-level Hispanic officers, the following is a representative sample of those individuals achieving remarkable career success in the U.S. military.  They exemplify commitment to honor, duty and country. 

Major General Thomas A. Benes
Director, Strategy and Plans Division
U.S. Marine Corps

Major General Thomas A. Benes has served as Director, Strategy and Plans Division, Plans, Policies and Operations, Headquarters, U.S.M.C., since May 22, 2004. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a B.S. in mechanical engineering, before being commissioned as a Marine Corps Officer.  A combat-tested fighter pilot and weapons and tactics instructor, he is a graduate of the famed TOPGUN training program for flight officers, specializing in weapons and tactics. He also commanded flight squadrons during Operation Desert Storm.  In 1992, he earned a masterís degree in public administration from George Washington University and, upon completion, reported to the Pentagon for a joint duty assignment.  He later returned to flight status, commanding  Marine Aircraft Group 31, whose squadrons participated in combat operations in the Persian Gulf and Hungary.  He served as Chief of Staff, Combined Forces Landing Component Commander, and participated in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. His personal decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with three gold stars, and the Air Medal with Combat ĎVí, among others.

Major General William D. Catto
Commanding General
Marine Corps Systems Command

Major General William D. Catto has led the Marine Corps Systems Command since July 2002. Prior to this assignment, he served concurrently as a Commanding General for the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory and Vice Chief of Naval Research.  He received his baccalaureate degree from Bethel College and his masterís degree from Webster University. A distinguished helicopter pilot, Major General Catto has amassed more than 4,100 flight hours in 13 types of aircraft.  Among his duty assignments, he served at Marine Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C., as the rotary-wing assignment officer, prior to being named Administrative Assistant to the Deputy Commandant for Aviation. His personal awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit Medal with gold star, Meritorious Service Medal with two gold stars, and Air Medal with one Strike Flight Numeral, among others. 

Brigadier General Jimmie C. Jackson Jr.
Deputy Commander, Combined Air Operations Center 7
Allied Command Operations (NATO)

Brigadier General Jimmie C. Jackson Jr. is the principal adviser to the commander on NATO and southern region air issues.  He is responsible for air operations planning and execution in his region, and is the senior ranking U.S. military officer assigned to Greece.  He was commissioned in 1977 as a distinguished graduate of the ROTC program at Texas A&M University, where he received a bachelorís degree in business administration.  He later earned his M.S. degree in personnel supervision and management at Troy State University, Alabama, and a masterís in national security strategy at the National War College. He has served in a variety of positions at squadron, wing, major command and air staff levels.  Prior to assuming his current command, the General was Commander, 305th Air Mobility Wing, and Installation Commander, McGuire AFB, New Jersey.  He has flown combat and support missions for Operations Provide Promise, Joint Guard and Iraqi Freedom.  He is a command pilot and has flown nearly 3,100 hours.  The general is the recipient of numerous personal awards and decorations including the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters and the Air Medal, among others.

Brigadier General Robert Marrero-Corletto
Assistant Adjutant General (Army)
Puerto Rico Army National Guard

As the Assistant Adjutant General for the Puerto Rico Army National Guard, Brigadier General Robert Marrero-Corletto supervises organization-wide training, readiness and personnel, among other functions.  He serves as chairman of various committees including Safety and Occupational Health, Anti-Terrorism Forces Protection, Environmental and Military Construction. Brigadier General Marrero-Corletto joined the Armyís enlisted ranks in 1968, becoming a gunnery instructor and, later, a forward observer and liaison officer during the Vietnam War, commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1969.   He earned a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Puerto Rico in 1973 and a Ph.D. in the same field from the University of Idaho in 1977.  Among his many awards and decorations are the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with Gold Star and one Bronze oak leaf cluster, Air Medal and the Army Commendation Medal.  He also holds the Vietnam Service Medal with three bronze stars.

Rear Admiral George E. Mayer
Naval Safety Center

Rear Admiral George E. Mayer graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in June 1975, and was designated a naval aviator in 1976.  He assumed his current assignment as Commander, Naval Safety Center, in 2005.  Prior to this assignment, he was Commander, Navy Region South/Chief of Naval Air Training.  He has flown and commanded squadrons of A-7 Corsairs and F/A-18 Hornets, accumulating more than 4,000 flight hours and over 1,000 carrier landings. He has held numerous shore posts as executive assistant and deputy director of operations, including tours as Deputy Director of Operations, United States Central Command, and at the Spanish Command and Staff College in Madrid, Spain.  He earned a masterís degree at the U.S. Naval War College.   His personal decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, and Navy Achievement Medal, as well as various unit and service awards.

Brigadier General Joseph V. Medina
Commanding General, Marine Corps Base Camp S.D. Butler, and
Deputy Commander, Marine Corps Bases, Japan

Brigadier General Joseph V. Medina received his commission in 1976, following graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy.  He holds a B.S. in physics and M.S. in systems management from the University of Southern California.  His military education includes Amphibious Warfare School, Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and the NATO Defense College. 

He has held his current position since July of 2005, having served as rifle platoon commander, company commander, battalion commander and executive officer of the 2nd Marines.  During the Kosovo Crisis, he simultaneously served as Chief, Kosovo Plans Group for two operations.  His first assignment as a brigadier general was the command of the newly established Expeditionary Strike Group THREE, based in San Diego as part of the U.S. Third Fleet.  Brigadier General Medina led the strike group through a six-month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Over the course of his deployment, the task force conducted over 550 ship boardings, 50 coastal patrol and interdiction missions, and 50 armed helicopter reconnaissance missions in the North Arabian Gulf and Iraqi territorial waters.  His personal decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit with gold star, Defense Meritorious Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with two gold stars, Joint Service Commendation Medal and Navy Commendation Medal with two gold stars.

Brigadier General Roque C. Nido-Lanausse
Deputy Adjutant General
Puerto Rico Army National Guard

Brigadier General Roque C. Nido-Lanausse is the principal advisor to the Adjutant General of the Puerto Rico Army National Guard, assisting primarily in the areas of logistics, fiscal compliance and personnel administration.  During his military career, Brigadier General Nido has occupied several key positions, including General Surgeon in the 201st Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, Chief of Surgical Services at the 201st Evacuation Hospital, Chief of Surgical Services on active duty with the 201st Evacuation Hospital during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Chief of Professional Services and, later, Commander of the 201st Evacuation Hospital. In civilian life, Brigadier General Nido is the Director of Surgery for Cristo Redentor Hospital and Santa Rosa Hospital at Guayame, Puerto Rico.  He also serves as the Medical Education and Training Program Director at the Episcopal Cristo Redentor Hospital. He earned his medical degree at the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine, specializing in general surgery.  Among his numerous medals and decorations are the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Achievement Medal, and Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal with four oak leaf clusters, National Defense Service Medal and the Southwest Asia Service Medal.

Brigadier General Joseph Reynes Jr.
Commander, 51st Fighter Wing
Osan Air Base, South Korea

Brigadier General Joseph Reynes Jr. commands a fighter wing consisting of more than 4,500 people.  The wing also supports five units directly involved in battle activities and maintains and administers 48 geographically separate units at 18 sites throughout the Korean peninsula.  General Reynes graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1978, earning a bachelorís degree in military history.  He graduated from pilot training in 1979 and has logged more than 3,400 hours in fighter aircraft.  In addition to commands at Air Force Bases in Asia and the U.S., he has held several positions at the Pentagon including F-16 program element monitor and military assistant to the executive secretary of the Department of Defense.  He earned a M.A. in national security and strategy studies at the National War College in 1996, was assigned to his current post in 2005 and was promoted to Brigadier General in October of the same year.  He holds numerous awards and decorations including the Defense Superior Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, Meritorious Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters, Aerial Achievement Medal with Silver and two Bronze oak leaf clusters and the Air Force Commendation Medal, among others. He was named the 17th Air Forceís Pilot of the Year in 1985.

Major General Charles G. Rodriguez
Adjutant General
Texas National Guard

As Adjutant General of the Texas National Guard,  Major General Charles G. Rodriguez is responsible for commanding more than 21,000 soldiers, airmen and civilians composing the Texas Army and Air National Guard, the State Guard and the Adjutant Generalís office.  He began his military service in 1975, upon graduating from the U.S. Military Academy and going on active duty in the Signal Corps.  He served eight years on active duty with the 101st Airborne (Air Assault) Division in light infantry, combat engineer and tactical signal battalions, as well as Battalion Headquarters Company Commander. He then served for 11 years in the U.S. Army Reserve.  He joined the Texas Army National Guard in 1995, leading forces in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom I.  He holds an M.A. from Wheaton College Graduate School, an M.B.A. from Keller Graduate School of Management and a Ph.D. in philanthropic leadership from Union Institute and University. His awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Army Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Army Achievement Medal, Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal with four oak leaf clusters and the National Defense Medal with one Bronze service star, among others.

Rear Admiral William D. Rodriguez
Chief Engineer
Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command

Rear Admiral William D. Rodriquez grew up in the U.S. Navy. The son of a Navy Captain, he was born at the Portsmouth, Virginia, Naval Hospital.  Upon graduation from The Citadel in 1977, where he earned a Baccalaureate in mathematics and computer science, he was commissioned an ensign through the NROTC program. After service aboard ship as an electronic warfare officer, Combat Information Center officer, and surface warfare officer, he was named, in 1980, operations officer, antisubmarine warfare officer for a destroyer squadron.  From 1982 to 1984, he attended Naval Postgraduate School, receiving an M.S. in systems technology, with an emphasis in computer science and communications engineering.  This was followed by increasingly responsible assignments with the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command and the Naval Sea Systems Command. Since his selection to flag rank in 2004, Rear Admiral Rodriquez has been the Chief Engineer for the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command.  In 2005, he assumed collateral duties as Acting Commander.  Rear Admiral Rodriquez is authorized to wear the Legion of Merit with one Gold Star, Meritorious Service Medal with three gold stars and Navy Commendation Medal with one gold star, among many others.

Brigadier General Angela Salinas
Chief of Staff
Marine Corps Recruiting Command 

Brigadier General Angie Salinas began her military career when she enlisted into the Marine Corps in May 1974.  Following recruit training at Parris Island, S.C., she served as a legal services clerk until 1977 when she was selected for the Enlisted Commissioning Program and commissioned a second lieutenant in December 1977.

She has commanded at every rank and served as Series Commander, Woman Recruit Training Command, Parris Island, South Carolina, Commanding Officer, Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Maintenance Battalion, Camp Pendleton, CA, Commanding Officer, Recruiting Station Charleston, West Virginia, Commanding Officer, 4th Recruit Training Battalion and Commanding Officer, 12th Marine Corps District, San Diego, CA.

She has also served in a variety of staff positions throughout the Marine Corps.

She was a legal officer with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing at Cherry Point, N.C. Executive Officer Headquarters Company and Battalion Operations Officer, Woman Recruit Training Battalion; Adjutant, 3rd Maintenance Battalion, Okinawa Japan, Adjutant, 1st Maintenance Battalion, Camp Pendleton, Executive Officer, Recruiting Station West Virginia, Majorís Combat Service Support Ground Monitor, Deputy, Special Assistant for General/Flag Officer Matters, Joint Staff, Assistant Chief of Staff, Plans and Policy, G-5, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Depot Inspector Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, CA,  Operations Officer, Marine Corps Recruiting Command and Chief of Staff, Marine Corps Recruiting Command, Quantico, VA.

In June 1989, Brigadier General Salinas assumed command of Recruiting Station Charleston and became the first woman in the Marine Corps to command a recruiting station.  In June 1992, she became the first woman assigned as a combat service support ground monitor responsible for the assignments of over 1000 senior officers.  She was the first female assigned as a plans and policy officer for a major combatant command in 1999 and in May 2001 when she assumed command of the 12th Marine Corps District, became the first woman to serve as a recruiting district commanding officer.  She is the first woman to command the Marine Corps Recruit Depot/Western Recruiting Region in San Diego.

Brigadier General Salinas is a 1976 graduate of Dominican College of San Rafael, Ca., where she received her B.A. in history. She received her masterís from the Naval War College in 1992.  She is a graduate of the Amphibious Warfare School, the Naval War Collegeís Command and Staff College and the Army War College.
Her personal decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with gold star in lieu of second award, the Meritorious Service Medal with 2 gold stars, the Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal with gold star, the Army Commendation Medal, and the Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal with 2 gold stars. 

She has received Meritorious Service Awards from the Federal Employed Women (FEW), the National Image, Latina Style Magazine, and the Molly Marine Award from the Woman Marine Association. She received recognition for her leadership by the Navy League and recognized as a ďground breakerĒ by Women In the Military for Service to America and has been named as one of the top100 most influential Hispanics in the country and one of 80 most elite women. 

Brigadier General Salinas is the highest ranking female Hispanic in the Marine Corps and the first Latina selected to the rank of Brigadier General.

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