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August 1-7, 1997


Military Officer

Taguba: "Hawaii opened my mind to the capabilities and opportunities in America. The diversity gave me a wide range to seek opportunities and to relate to other people."

Army appoints its second Fil-Am general

BY BERT ELJERA

While the U.S. Armed Forces are often held up as models for racial integration in this country, that cannot be said of its officer corps, particularly among its generals and senior officers. Like the board rooms of most private corporations, generals of the major services predominantly are white males--although blacks have made some headway, most notably in the person of Gen. Colin Powell, the former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Asian Pacific Americans, however, are at the bottom of the totem pole in the military ranks. There is no APA flag officer on active duty in the U.S. Navy or general in the U.S. Air Force; the same is true for the U.S. Marines.

But, the U.S. Army seems to be a more hospitable ground for APAs. A lieutenant general and a brigadier general are actively serving, and a third general is going through the confirmation process and is likely to get his star in the next few weeks.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Col. Antonio Taguba will become the second Filipino American general in the U.S. Army, joining Brig. Gen. Edward Soriano, who is the director of Operations, Readiness, and Mobilization at the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans at the Pentagon.

"I'm very humbled by this recognition," said Taguba, reached at his new post at the Army Force Camp at Fort McPherson in Atlanta. "There are a lot of people to thank for my success--fellow soldiers, friends, my family, and my kids who have withstood the triumphs and tribulations of life in the military."

Taguba is temporarily assigned as special assistant to the camp's commanding general, Gen. David Bramlett, and does not yet know what unit he will command.

Before his promotion, he was the commander of the 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, at Fort Hood, Texas. His military career spans 25 years and includes a three-year stint in Germany and six years in Korea.

It's a long way from Sampaloc, Manila, where Taguba was born on Oct. 31, 1950, to a large, deeply religious family. His father, Tomas, is a retired Army sergeant. His mother, Maria, stayed home to raise him, two other brothers, and five sisters.

"I had an absentee father who was in the Army, but I had an enjoyable childhood," said Taguba, who still remembers watching television on a black-and-white set, attending fiestas, and visiting relatives in Cagayan, a province north of Manila.

While he was attracted to the military at an early age because his father was in the Army, he said it was his mother and grandmother who raised him who had the most influence in his life.

"It's part of our culture to respect elders, give thanks to the Lord, to be forgiving, and be supportive of your family. I've learned those early in life," Taguba said.

When he was 11 years old, his family moved to Hawaii, where he graduated from Leilehua High School in 1968. He said he benefited from the diversity and openness of the people in Hawaii and felt that his ethnicity was no hindrance to success.

"[Hawaii] opened my mind to the capabilities and opportunities in America," Taguba said. "The diversity gave me a wide range to seek opportunities and to relate to other people. I had friends from all races. I tend to like it that way. It has helped me in my career."

Seeking a little adventure, Taguba left Hawaii and enrolled at Idaho State University, where he graduated in 1972. He joined the U.S. Army shortly thereafter. He steadily rose through the ranks, graduating from prestigious military-training schools, including the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, College of Naval Command and Staff, and the U.S. Army War College.

He also holds master's degrees in public administration from Webster University, in international relations from Salve Regina College, and in national security and strategic studies from the U.S. Naval War College.

Taguba commanded a tank company of a mechanized infantry division in Germany, and was a battalion commander and later executive officer of the combined Republic of Korea-U.S. Forces in Korea.

From June 1995 to June of this year, he was commander of the 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, at Fort Hood. For his services, he has received various decorations, including the Meritorious Service Medal (Five Oak Leaf Clusters), Army Commendation Medal (Two Oak Leaf Clusters), the Army Achievement Medal (One Oak Leaf Cluster) and the Army General Staff identification badge.

"I take it with great pride that we are able to assimilate ourselves into the American society," Taguba said. "We have shown we can contribute to society, at the same time preserve our Filipino American heritage and culture."

Taguba lives in Peachtree City, Ga., with his wife, Debbie, and children, Lindsay, 15, and Sean, 12.

The highest-ranking APA in the U.S. Army is Lt. Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, who is taking a new assignment with the U.S. Forces in Europe. Six other general officers of Asian Pacific ancestry have retired. They are Lt. Gen. Allen K. Ono, Maj. Gen. William S.C. Chen, Maj. Gen. John L. Fugh, Maj. Gen. Theodore S. Kanamine, Brig. Gen. Paul Y. Chinen, and Brig. Gen. Fredrick G. Wong.

Five APAs serve as general officers in the National Guard: Maj. Gen. Edward Richardson, Maj. Gen. Eugene Imai, Brig. Gen. Dwight Kealoha, Brig. Gen. Dennis Kamimura, and Brig. Gen. Danny Paulino.

Maj. Gen. Kelly Lau, a two-star general from Hawaii, is the highest-ranking APA in the Army Reserve.


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