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Empowering Latinas one woman at a time

Airmen poses for a photo with Maj. Gen. Linda R. Urrutia-Varhall, the Director of Operations at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

U.S Air Force Capt. Michelle Cazares, 39th Communications Squadron cyber operations flight commander right, poses for a photo with Maj. Gen. Linda R. Urrutia-Varhall, the Director of Operations at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, at the 15th Annual National LATINA Symposium in Washington, D.C., Sept. 6, 2018. Cazares was one of six recipients chosen for the award out of 54 women from around the Department of Defense. (courtesy photo)

Airmen poses for a photo after receiving award.

U.S Air Force Capt. Michelle Cazares, 39th Communications Squadron cyber operations flight commander, receives the 2018 Latina Style Distinguished Military Service Award, at the 15th Annual National LATINA Symposium in Washington, D.C., Sept. 6, 2018. The award is designed to recognize military and civilian women in Department of Defense who have enhanced the role of Latinas. (courtesy photo)

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey --

U.S. Air Force Capt. Michelle Cazares, 39th Communications Squadron cyber operations flight commander, was awarded the 2018 Latina Style Distinguished Military Service Award on Sept. 6, 2018, at the 15th Annual National LATINA Symposium in Washington, D.C.

The purpose of the Latina Style Distinguished Military Service Award is to recognize women in the military and the Department of Defense civilian workforce, who through their service, have enhanced the role of Latinas in their organization and the DoD. Cazares was one of six recipients chosen for the award out of 54 women from around the U.S. Air Force and DoD.

“I have accomplished everything in my career because of the lessons my father taught me growing up,” said Cazares. “He always told me to take initiative and never wait for someone to tell me what to do.”

While Cazares contributes much of her success to her family, what sets her apart is her continual desire to advance herself and those around her in and out of the work place.

“Receiving this award means a lot to me because it recognizes a person for their hard work, and focuses on distinguishing individuals who are enhancing the role of Latinas in their organization, which is something I aspire to do,” said Cazares.

Additional nomination criteria for the award consisted of candidates distinguishing themselves as advocates of diversity and the full integration of Latina women in the Armed Forces, embodying qualities of the service’s mission and being well respected by superiors and peers as military and community leaders.

“My career field, cyberspace operations, doesn’t have many females and it has even less Latinas,” said Cazares. “I can only hope that my hard work and determination inspires other Latinas across the Air Force to constantly push themselves into new, exciting and challenging roles.”

In addition to enhancing her career field for minorities, Cazares uses her native language within the Language Enabled Airman Program to sustain, enhance and position the language skills of Airmen into operations.

“I think it’s important for Latinos to educate others about our culture”, said Cazares. “Maintaining my native language skill is also very important to me so, I constantly seek opportunities to practice and get better.”

Since being selected into LEAP in 2014 Cazares, has completed over 480 hours of Spanish speaking and cultural training via online classes and in-country training.

According to Cazares this opportunity has opened up doors for her and allowed her to enhance her language skills and empower Latina women around the world.

If you are interested in enhancing and using your language skills, check out the detailed eligibility requirements and application instructions available on the Air Force Culture and Language Center's website at http://culture.af.mil/leap/index.aspx.