An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Hispanic Heritage Month Mentoring Event focuses on commonalties

  • Published
  • By Michele Donaldson
  • Air Force Materiel Command

National Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to embrace Hispanic Americans' rich cultures and contributions. The Air Force Materiel Command Cross-Cultural Mentoring Panel, Sept. 27, not only celebrated the uniqueness of Hispanic culture but also highlighted the commonality among all with a theme of, “Somos todos; somos uno,” which translates to, “We are all; we are one.”

Joseph Oder, Executive Director, Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center and champion for the AFMC Hispanic Employment and Action Team delivered welcoming remarks at the event.

“It seems someone is always trying to divide us by politics, by faith, by race, by gender, or just by where we live or who we are,” said Oder. “Don’t fall for that. We have more in common than we have differences.”

The mentoring panel featured participants from various AFMC work centers and other organizations located at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, including Howard Garcia, Strength and Materials Technical Expert, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center; Maj. Nathan Snow, Deputy Chief of the Turbine Engine Division, Air Force Research Laboratory; Aurea Rivera, Defense Intelligence Senior Leader Intelligence Engineer, Data Exploitation, National Air and Space Intelligence Center; Darybel Ortiz, Systems Engineer, Agile Combat Support, AFLCMC; and Dr. Olga Mendoza-Schrock, Branch Chief, Decision Sciences Branch, Sensors Directorate, AFRL.

The panelists briefly introduced themselves, their heritage, and some of their mentorship experiences before answering questions submitted for the forum.

Howard Garcia considers himself “New-Yorican,” which he explained as being born in New York City and raised both there and in Puerto Rico. He told the group that he originally came to Ohio for a few years to gain experience in his field.

As he gets ready to retire 39 years later, he was happy to share some of what he has learned from working with people from backgrounds foreign to his own.

“I learned that we must first open our eyes and our minds to understand the different people we are interacting with so we can be reciprocated the same way,” said Garcia.

Besides being of Hispanic heritage, Rivera was also one of very few female engineers when she began her career. She feels fortunate to have had many senior leaders who, even in the 1980s, were looking at diversification of the workforce.

“Leaders saw that I was not only able to get the job done but done in a way that showed them I was interested in growing my technical expertise,” said Rivera. “I found a leader mentor who found a connection in common and reached out to me.”

Unlike other panel members, Snow is not Hispanic but is married to a woman of Venezuelan descent. In his home and through many worldwide deployments, he has realized how vital multiplicity of ideas and culture can be. He encourages his team and his children to embrace their diversity.

“You have to get out of your comfort zone,” said Snow. “Recognize the opportunities available to you in the Air Force and welcome them.”

The essence of the forum came down to expanding your world and your ideas through others. All panelists encouraged the audience to be proud and open about heritage but willing to learn new concepts and ways of thinking.

“Be open to talking about your culture, and don’t be shy about it,” said Garcia. “Open your book to people, and people will be willing to read it and will be honest and respectful.”

AFMC Cross-Cultural Mentoring sessions began in 2022 and were created to encourage an inclusive culture where all people feel comfortable discussing demographic diversity.

The next Cross-Cultural Mentoring session will be held in October and will highlight National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

To watch the Hispanic Heritage Month panel, visit:

For more information on the AFMC Mentoring Program, visit