Saluting Diversity
by LT Faith Tabatsko, USN

On Friday, January 9th, 2004, LCDR Edward Robledo, Engineer of USS Maryland (SSBN-738)(B) found himself speaking in front of a large audience. Though this in itself is nothing unusual for a submarine officer of his seniority, he was hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean, and only about 10 of the audience of over 500 people were in the Navy. Instead of his normal speaking engagements — holding quarters, briefing his department on a refit plan, or conducting EOOW/EWS training, LCDR Robledo was addressing attendees of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) Annual Technical Conference, where he had just been presented with the Most Promising Engineer Award, recognizing not only his significant past accomplishments, but also his tremendous potential for future success.

LCDR Robledo candidly addressed the audience about his experiences as a submarine officer and what the Navy has taught him. The audience included Hispanic industry and government leaders, as well as students from a variety of colleges and universities working hard to earn their degrees in science and engineering. From senior executives to young college students, the attendees were uniformly impressed with LCDR Robledo’s message and expressed their pride in his service to our nation. Some of these students may even aspire to follow in his footsteps as a naval officer. This is but one example of a number of awards received by submarine officers in the past several years, in acknowledgement for their hard work and status as role models across a variety of different communities.

Some of the organizations that have recognized submarine officers for exceptional academics, strong leadership, uncompromising integrity, and commitment to their country and their service include not only the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), but also the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Corporation (HENAAC), the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), the Chinese Institute of Engineers (CIE) USA, and National Engineers Week. Submarine Force leadership is committed to recognizing its top performers in forums such as these at every opportunity.

In recent years, the Submarine Force has enjoyed significant success in steadily increasing its diversity. This is a direct result of the foresight, initiative, and tenacity of many within our ranks who reach out to identify highly–qualified individuals, and show them what is possible as a submariner. One such opportunity was LCDR Robledo’s experience last January, which afforded him the opportunity to influence a future generation of prospective submariners.

Another facet of increasing the community’s diversity has been the focus on mentoring. Submarine Force mentors work to instill the belief that each individual in the Submarine Force is valued and limited only by his own desires and abilities. Our mentors’ hands-on efforts and personal attention have been cited by many across the Navy as a model for other warfare communities.

The Submarine Force, like the Navy writ large, is dedicated to increasing the diversity of its ranks, as well as affording each individual the opportunity to reach his or her fullest potential. By reaching out to organizations promoting diversity, the community can tap the potential of highly qualified men of all backgrounds. Much of our strength is derived through our differences, which lend the diversity knowledge and experience that make us a more capable Force.

For more information on ways to recognize your outstanding minority officers, see the Navy’s Diversity Directorate website at www.persnet.navy.mil/pers00h/Conferences.html.

LT Tabatsko is the Nuclear Propulsion Diversity Programs Coordinator.

Photo caption follows In another ceremony LCDR Eduardo Fernandez (left), executive officer of USS Henry M. Jackson (SSBN-730) poses with his wife, Karen, and RDML Patrick Dunne, President of the Naval Postgraduate School. LCDR Fernandez was the winner of the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Corporation award for Military Excellence – Professional Achievement.

Cover of Undersea Warfare Magazine Winter 2005