- Category: Inclusion
- Published: September 08, 2011
- Written by Susan Shaw
The military offers a route for Hispanic Americans to earn college degrees, cross the digital divide, and learn skills that will be highly valued in the post-September 11th economy. Now, a Hispanic owned marketing firm has joined forces with the United States Navy to encourage Hispanic Americans to consider military careers.
World War I army recruiters plastered America with posters depicting "Uncle Sam," who pointed a bony finger and declared, "I want you!" However, if the military were to use the historic American icon on a recruitment poster today, they'd probably be willing to nickname him "Tio Sam," and the poster would be in Spanish or even, Spanglish.
The military has been funding bilingual recruitment efforts for the past decade. However, the results of the 2000 Census clearly illustrated that the ranks of our armed forces are still not nearly as diverse as the civilian population. Although enlisted men and women in the Navy are about ten percent Hispanic, because a college degree is needed to become an officer, a lesser number of Hispanics qualify. In a community where there is an urgent need for more young adults to graduate from college, these lower numbers are especially unfortunate. The military is well aware that the generous educational opportunities they provide could help the Hispanic community in many ways. First, to get the higher education they need, and secondly, to get technical and computer training that will allow them to cross the digital divide. Lastly, Hispanics can use the education and skills they acquire in the Navy to progress to lucrative private careers that will benefit their own communities.
Puerto Rican American Eddie Batiz and his company Batiz.com, the host of JobCentro.com, a Hispanic American job and career development site endorsed by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, have joined forces with the U.S. Navy to encourage more Hispanics to enlist. In August, Batiz and the Navy launched a website with a name that in itself is indicative of the Navy's keen respect and awareness of the nuances of Hispanic culture---ELNAVY.com. The site communicates the Navy's understanding of the Hispanic community and culture, generates a better understanding of the role of the U.S. Navy, emphasizes the educational and career opportunities offered, and highlights the important role that Hispanics have played in the history of the Navy.
Rodd Rodriguez, CEO of the Rodd Group in New York, conducted focus groups to understand the attitudes and perceptions that Hispanics have towards the Armed Forces in general, and the Navy in particular. Rodriguez listened carefully to his subjects' liberal use of Spanglish. "They would say, 'El Navy,'" Rodriguez says. "It became obvious that Spanglish provides and communicates a level of familiarity and comfort, for young and older Hispanic generations alike." Rodriguez and Batiz quickly reserved the URL name ELNAVY.com, a name that the Navy welcomed enthusiastically.
A Navy career offers surprising benefits---world travel, unparalleled technical and leadership training, and the opportunity to receive a paid college education, to name only a few. "The Navy gives every young person the opportunity to step down the path to success," says Lieutenant Ingrid Mueller, a spokeswoman for Navy recruiting command. However, language barriers are one obstacle that may prevent Hispanics from considering military careers, especially among the older generations. Batiz calls this group "the influencers." In Hispanic culture where family ties are strong, mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles tend to have influence over the younger generation and are often key decision-makers for the entire family. "This new site will reach out to potential recruits and their families, as together they make the important decision of whether the U.S. Navy would be a positive experience for them," Batiz said. The strength of Hispanic family ties is already recognized by the Army, who recently overhauled its advertising and features commercials on Spanish language television depicting a Hispanic working mom with three children.
Hispanic Americans Proud to Join
Additionally, Hispanic cultures and influencers may have a negative opinion of the military in general, as within their countries of origin soldiers may have harmed the public. Educating Hispanic families about the U.S. military may help to change those negative stereotypes. Public opinion about the military in general was certainly poor during the Vietnam era, but opinions shifted substantially during the recent Gulf War, when our soldiers were celebrated and honored upon their return home. Now, since the September 11th terrorist attack on the U.S., the presence of our own American ships, submarines and fighter planes patrolling our skies and waters is appreciated by the average American more than at any time since Pearl Harbor. Americans understand that military service is a high honor where soldiers serve primarily to protect citizens and their resources, not to oppress or destroy.In an interview with Batiz, conducted on his cell phone when he was stranded in Puerto Rico a few days after the Pentagon and World Trade Center were attacked by hijackers, Batiz said, "At this point in time, I can't tell you how proud we are to be Latino Americans. I hope that Latinos and everyone will line up to join the Armed Forces."
An Invitation from the Navy
Commander Kathy Contres, a Hispanic American, works as Director of Navy Diversity Recruiting Programs and has served in the Navy for 22 years. Does the Navy offer Sailors the time and opportunity to pursue higher education? "Absolutely," Contres says. 'We encourage that. We need smart people; we need educated people." The scope and variety of programs the Navy provides to educate its personnel is surprising. Contres herself earned a master's degree in the Navy through a program that paid her living expenses and tuition and gave her an 18-month leave to attend college. "We take college professors to sea whenever we deploy and the Sailors take courses on board ship," Contres explains. "Many colleges love the Navy and approximately one hundred are affiliated with us."
The first question in the minds of prospective officer applicants is usually, "How long will I have to stay in the Navy?" Contres says that commitments vary from three to six years, and scholarship amounts vary in proportion with the time commitment to the Navy, the field of study, and the amount of college tuition needed. Most positions offer bonuses to recruits upon signing. For example, the R.O.T.C. covers full tuition and fees with a monthly stipend of over $200.00. The Navy also pays for textbooks. Scholarships concentrate on technical fields like mechanical, electrical or chemical engineering, computer science, math and physics, but are also available for non-technical majors like financial management. Currently, there is a critical need for Sailors and officers to work as chaplains, pilots, naval flight officers, and in nuclear propulsion on ships and submarines. High school students are required to take the Armed Services Vocational Battery Test and qualify for an array of job positions based on their scores. Because the Navy is accredited within the college system, once the recruit goes to boot camp, all their courses and job skills training can be converted to college credits. The Navy's training in the nuclear program, once completed, will translate directly to nearly complete the requirements for an associate's degree, Contres says. "That's a good deal for someone about to set foot on a college campus."
Contres reports that among current enlisted personnel about 21 percent are African American, 10 percent are Hispanic, and 9 percent are Asian Americans and Native Americans. However, among officers---personnel with college degrees---only 5 percent are Hispanic. "We are working hard on the officer's side to build the numbers up," she says. Contres hopes that mentoring and role modeling will increase the number of Hispanic officers. She points out that within the general civilian U.S. population, only 5.5 percent of Hispanics are college graduates. "People are always asking why there's such a large difference in the number of Hispanics between the enlisted corps and the officer corps," she says. "We want more officers, but we can only take college graduates or those working on a college degree. The general public has to produce more graduates for us to pull from. We would love to have 20 percent of our officers be Hispanic but those numbers are not available to us."
The Navy's programs could certainly help raise the number of Hispanic college graduates. Their lucrative Baccalaureate Degree Completion Program Scholarship gives students with a 2.7 GPA or above up to $56,000 to complete their degree. Upon graduation, commission as a Naval Officer is granted immediately. Contres states that the Navy is actually doing quite well in recruiting Hispanics, but says, "We're always trying to do better. We're really committed to diversity in the Navy." Currently, the goal is to increase the numbers of Hispanics in the Navy's various programs by roughly two percent annually.
Latin Rhythm in the Navy
Rodriguez reports that in working with focus groups of Hispanic young people, he found very little knowledge of Hispanic participation in the military. The ELNAVY.com site highlights the role Hispanics have played in the Navy, where the very first admiral was a Hispanic American. "Most people don't know that Hispanic Americans have been involved in the military dating back to the 1700's. These are things they don't teach us in school. We wanted to give Latinos a sense of pride in these accomplishments," Rodriguez said.
The web site features music with an international flavor and a Latin rhythm, and text on the site is in English and Spanish. The site also caters to the age 18 - 34 primary target group, and offers features like a "Navy locker" and "life accelerator" where would-be recruits can investigate career options and store personal data.
A Rich Hispanic History
ELNAVY.com reports that Hispanics have a long and proud tradition as Sailors, serving bravely and honorably in the U.S. Navy during every war and conflict since the American Revolution. The tradition is stronger than ever in today's Navy. More than 35,000 Hispanic-American Sailors in all ranks and job specialties are part of today's Navy team. Admirals are the highest-ranking officers in the U.S. Navy. The term "admiral" comes from the Arabic term amir-al-bahr, meaning "commander of the seas." The U.S. Navy had no admiral rank until 1862, when Congress appointed nine rear admirals to fulfill the needs of the rapidly expanding Navy in the Civil War. Two years later, a Hispanic American named David Glasgow Farragut was appointed as the first vice admiral in the Navy, and within another two years was appointed as the first "full" admiral in the history of the U.S. Navy.
Between 1979-1980, Edward Hidalgo, a Hispanic American, held the highly esteemed position of Secretary of the Navy. During Hidalgo's tenure, new recruiting techniques and television advertising campaigns were implemented to inform Hispanic Americans about careers in the Navy. Hidalgo also served as an air combat intelligence officer on USS Enterprise (CV 6) during World War II and was awarded a Bronze Star for that service.
Many civilians tend to be unaware of the scope of training, education and opportunity that the Navy provides. Once a recruit meets basic requirements and achieves acceptable test scores, he or she has a great deal of freedom to work with the Navy to choose a career path that matches their abilities and interests. "Our approach is based on a simple core message," Rodriguez says. "The Navy brings Hispanics every possible educational opportunity. You can reach a great level of achievement. The skills that can be attained are very highly regarded in the private sector and job opportunities will be available." Rodriguez also feels that the Navy offers a "digital divide solution," in that recruits quickly become computer literate and technologically adept.
Earn an Advanced Degree
The Navy needs highly educated individuals to carry out critical research, strategic planning and other activities vital to the defense of our country. The Navy has programs to help medical and legal professionals pay for their education either for advanced degrees after they have earned a bachelor's or to assist while they are still an undergraduate. Additionally, the Naval Dental Scholarship Program offers special opportunities for dentists. The Navy also offers postgraduate study at its own academic institution, the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. This accredited college offers graduate degrees in a number of fields that are critical to the mission of the Navy and Department of Defense. These include engineering, applied physics, mathematics, oceanography and all manner of sciences.
The Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, gives certain Navy personnel opportunities to study all aspects of the Navy, from policy and tactics to command theories. Students of the National Defense University have the opportunity to learn security and military strategy alongside officers from all branches of the military.If you're a college-bound high school student who excels academically, possesses strong leadership and athletic skills and is involved in extracurricular activities, you may qualify to attend the U.S. Naval Academy.
Since September 11th, the day of the terrorist attack on the United States, the only thing that Americans can be certain of is that change will continue. As massive layoffs occur in some sectors, new opportunities spring up in technical and security related fields. If you are a Hispanic American who wants to earn a college degree, reach a high level of professional achievement, learn marketable skills that apply in today's changing economy, cross the digital divide and serve your country and community---the Navy wants you.
Rewarding Careers Available Now!
Maybe the Navy appeals to you because you'd like to travel the world, see a sunset at the Arctic Circle from the hatch of a submarine, or enjoy the camaraderie of your Navy buddies. You might also consider that you can not only pursue just about any career path or interest, the Navy can actually accelerate your progress with money for tuition, and benefits like housing, medical and living expenses while you study.
Below is a list of career directions you can consider with the Navy:
- Arts and Photography
- Business Management
- Construction and Building
- Emergency, Fire and Rescue
- Energy and Power
- Finance and Accounting
- Food, Restaurant & Lodging
- Human Resources
- Information Technology
- Intelligence and Communications
- Law Enforcement and Security
- Mechanical and Industrial
- Medical and Dental
- News and Media
- Office and Administrative Support
- Purchasing and Supply
- Special Operations
- Transportation and Logistics
- World Languages
How Do I Qualify?
Specific jobs may require a certain level of education or certain scores on the standardized evaluation given to all recruits. In addition, all recruits must:
- Be 18-34 years of age (17 with parental consent)
- Meet certain physical fitness requirements
- Pass the Navy's standardized evaluation, the ASVAB
Recruits must also have a high school diploma or equivalent. The best way to match your qualifications to a Navy career is to locate your nearest recruiter and schedule an interview.