My Life in Retrospect
As a young girl, I remember watching the Cadets at the United States
Air Force Academy line up to march for noon meal formation.
Inspired by the spectacle, I leaned over to my Uncle and stated “I
plan to be down on the terrazzo one day.” To which my Uncle responded “oh
hija, that can’t happen because “girls” are not allowed at the Academy.
Crestfallen, I continued the tour and determined I would prove my Uncle
Fast forward to 1980, I received my nomination to the Academy.
Needless to say, I graduated with the fifth class of women and a degree in
Civil Engineering, (before STEM was cool). I remain thankful for society
believing in and opening doors with opportunities for me to excel.
From 1980 forward, I embraced and aggressively chased every
opportunity presented to me. I never dreamed I would be wearing and
serving my country as the first Latina to be promoted to Major General (2
stars) in the Active Duty Air Force. Also, as I look back, I never thought my
personal story was interesting. I could not have been more wrong.
At every event, I find young Latinas shaking their head in agreement as
I simply tell them about my career.
Additionally, I should have never
shortened my name to U-V, I wish I would
have made it a point for others to learn how
to roll their “Rs” and address me by my
entire name. Finally, I should have
embraced the fact Latinas are looking for
someone senior they can identify with as a
trailblazer…I was it!
But as unfortunate as it sounds, as Latinas, our fight for equality has just
begun. While our percentages are higher in the junior ranks, as we become
more senior the percentage of Latinas at the workforce drops dramatically.
Those starting out need to understand they themselves are trailblazers and
must make mentoring part of their daily ritual. In addition, we need to focus
at the mid-range because that is where we lose the majority of the
force…we should be honest with our feedback and pass on what worked or
didn’t work for us in our career.
By learning from our past mistakes, they can make the choice that is
right for them. As I reflect on the past, I have built my reputation by
working hard and the optic of balancing family and business. I know it was
my Latin upbringing that made me focus on family and it has always helped
shape me in how I view the world.
I have been blessed throughout my 38 years of service and I never
dreamed I would travel the world and make a difference. I hope I have been
a role model for others to emulate and I am excited about the young Latinas
that follow…we are on an upward trajectory and setting a path for success
in the future. So, aim higher, you are capable of achieving more than you
think you can. If I had aimed for two stars, would have four stars been within
my reach? Dream bigger! LS
By Maj Gen Linda R. Urrutia
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Maj Gen Linda R.
Urrutia-Varhall is the
Director of Operations
at the National
Agency in Springfield,
38 www.latinastyle.com LATINAStyle Vol. 24, No. 6, 2018