403rd Wing Officer talks about Hispanic heritage
BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - It’s been a little more than a year since Col. Reggie Trujillo assumed command of the 403rd Mission Support Group at Keesler Air Force Base.
And just 10 months after that, Col. Stuart Rubio stepped into his new role as the commander of the Wing.
Both men have long and decorated military careers, making them perfect fits for their roles, but they also share something else in common: Hispanic heritage.
“When Col. Rubio became the Wing Commander, I don’t think I looked at is as ‘Oh we’ve got a Hispanic Commander as our Wing Commander or I am one of the Hispanic group commanders, probably one of the few in the Air Force Reserve,’” Trujillo said. “We see ourselves as Americans first and what we bring to the fight. The fact that I am Hispanic is a bonus but each culture brings a bonus.”
While Rubio leads the entire Wing, Trujillo focuses on his role as Mission Support Group Commander with more than 400 reserve citizen airmen across four squadrons and one flight.
“We’re the enablers. We enable the maintenance group by taking care of the logistics,” he said.
He’s also not the only Trujillo in service, with a brother in the Air Force and a father who served in the U.S. Army.
“I have a proud military heritage in my background,” he said.
His father ultimately led him on his path to the Air Force, encouraging him to join Air Force ROTC while attending Arizona State University.
Through the training corps, Trujillo was able to meet a notable Hispanic Vietnam Veteran and personal hero, Everett Alvarez.
Alvarez was a Navy pilot during the war and was the first airman shot down. He spoke with Trujillo about his experiences in combat and as a POW.
“I’m just really amazed by his dedication to this country and service and passion for this great land,” he said.
Over his 26-year military career, Trujillo has managed to meet other Hispanic role models and serve under many officers just as passionate about service as he is.
“I think it’s great that we celebrate our nation’s diversity and our military’s diversity,” he said. “ Diversity is our nation’s strength and our military’s strength. It’s important that we say thanks and appreciate all the diverse cultures.”
While the 403rd airmen and airwomen join other Air Force Wings in celebrating the Hispanics that have paved the way, Trujillo said it doesn’t change the fact that everyone on the force fights under the same flag.
“We bring each of those backgrounds with us but then when we show up and put this uniform on, we are proud airmen and proud Americans,” he said.
According to a 2020 report by the Department of Defense Board on Diversity and Inclusion, the military overall has seen increases in minority demographic representation but underrepresentation in senior officer grades.
Despite this, Trujillo is encouraged with a more diverse Air Force, 15.9% of which is Hispanic or Latino.
“I’m proud to be Hispanic, proud to serve and proud to call myself an American,” he said.
403rd Wing Commander Col. Stuart Rubio also has Hispanic heritage. In total, almost 16 percent of the Air Force is made up of Hispanics or Latinos.
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