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NAWCAD Lakehurst celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

APML/Fleet Liaison Officer, PEO(T) Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment Program Office Capt. Tony Hernandez speaks at the 2017 NAWCAD Lakehurst Hispanic Heritage Month Event at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. Sept. 27. (U.S. Navy Photo)

APML/Fleet Liaison Officer, PEO(T) Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment Program Office Capt. Tony Hernandez speaks at the 2017 NAWCAD Lakehurst Hispanic Heritage Month Event at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. Sept. 27. (U.S. Navy Photo)

Oct 2, 2017

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Officer in Charge for CNATT Detachment Lakehurst Lt. Alex Diaz speaks at the 2017 NAWCAD Lakehurst Hispanic Heritage Month Event at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. Sept. 27. (U.S. Navy Photo)

Officer in Charge for CNATT Detachment Lakehurst Lt. Alex Diaz speaks at the 2017 NAWCAD Lakehurst Hispanic Heritage Month Event at Joint Base McGuire ...

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. – More than 100 personnel from the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) Lakehurst came together in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month on the Lakehurst side of base Sept. 27.

This year’s theme “Shaping the Bright Future of America” was brought to life through keynote speakers and a presentation on diversity in the workplace in honor of the national Hispanic Heritage Month Observance, which takes place annually from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

The event was hosted by NAWCAD Lakehurst’s Hispanic Engagement Action Team (HEAT) and Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Diversity Office.

“I believe, and this is my opinion, that it’s very important for the attendees to realize that NAVAIR [Naval Air Systems Command] takes diversity and inclusion very seriously,” said Gilbert Espinoza, NAWCAD Lakehurst HEAT site lead. “These events are examples of how serious we take this because our workforce is made up of so many different types of people, and they all should have the right to achieve what they want to achieve and be given a voice.”

Keynote speakers Assistant Program Manager for Logistics /Fleet Liaison Officer, Program Executive Office Tactical Aircraft Programs (PEO(T)), Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment Program Office Capt. Tony Hernandez and Officer in Charge of the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training (CNATT) Detachment Lakehurst Lt. Alex Diaz, shared their stories of immigrating to the United States and joining the U.S. Navy.

“I’m fully aware that in this room today there are numerous immigration stories and professional success stories that dwarf mine,” said Diaz. “I do hope to share with you my life, to hopefully inspire those who think that ‘maybe this is all I do with my life.’ Don’t let anybody ever hold you back.”

Diaz shared his journey of emigrating from Cuba by inner tube to his brief detour at Guantanamo Bay to arriving in America and joining the U.S. Navy. 

“I share my accomplishments with you because for many years I felt that my actions would affect how others viewed Cuba, just Cuba,” said Diaz. “As time passed, I became worried that my actions would affect how others viewed Hispanics as a whole. And as I continued to evolve and mature in this beautiful country, today I worry that my actions would affect how others viewed Americans.”

Hernandez spoke of the event’s theme and the audience’s shared responsibility to help build “America’s bright future.”

“But how do we change the future? We change the future through the application of engaged guidance, meaningful mentorship, and involved leadership,” said Hernandez.

Hernandez shared his journey of growing up in Puerto Rico and joining the Navy, and the prejudice and mentors he encountered along the way.

He spoke of the importance his mentors had on his advancement in the military and encouraged the audience to mentor the youth and coworkers in their lives.

“Understanding our past will help us shape our future,” said Hernandez. “It takes commitment and personal sacrifice to truly mentor someone, not just on their part but on our part as well.”

In addition to the annual Hispanic Heritage Month event, the HEAT team is looking at barriers to advancement for Latinos and Latinas in the NAWCAD Lakehurst workforce environment in order to identify actionable solutions, said Espinoza.

“The best way to emphasize our mission as far as making people aware of the barriers that are associated with HEAT is to show that you can succeed if you put your mind to it,” said Espinoza. “I hope that resonated with a lot of folks, and I believe it did.”

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NAWCAD Lakehurst Leadership and team members from the NAWCAD Lakehurst Hispanic Engagement Action Team (HEAT) and Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Diversity Office gather at the 2017 NAWCAD Lakehurst Hispanic Heritage Month Event at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. Sept. 27. (U.S. Navy Photo)

NAWCAD Lakehurst Leadership and team members from the NAWCAD Lakehurst Hispanic Engagement Action Team (HEAT) and Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) D ...

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