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First Hispanic Woman Grad Credits Academy for Her Success

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Old September 23rd 04, 12:28 AM
Otis Willie
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Default First Hispanic Woman Grad Credits Academy for Her Success

First Hispanic Woman Grad Credits Academy for Her Success


{EXCERPT} By Rudi Williams American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 22, 2004 -- Not only was Linda Garcia Cubero the
first Hispanic woman graduate of the Air Force Academy, she was the
only Hispanic woman to graduate from any of the nation's service
academies in 1980, when the first classes with women graduated.

President Gerald R. Ford signed legislation Oct. 7, 1975, permitting
women to enter the nation's military academies. Women entered the Air
Force Academy for the first time on June 28, 1976. The first class
with women graduated in May 1980.

A graduate of Chicopee Comprehensive High School in Chicopee, Mass.,
Cubero was the first woman in that state to receive an appointment to
any military academy.

Cubero said she decided to pursue an education at the academy to
follow her father's footsteps into the Air Force as a commissioned
officer. She also wanted to travel and see the world.

"And I wanted to get a really good education and the opportunities at
the service academies were just too good to pass up," said Cubero, who
graduated with a bachelor of science degree in political science and
earned her free-fall parachute wings.

She spent seven years in the Air Force serving as a command briefer to
a four-star general and on national-level task forces at the Pentagon.
As a liaison to the White House, Cubero supervised the development of
a U.S. commemorative postage stamp honoring Hispanics in the defense
of the nation. The stamp was designed by the 10 surviving Hispanic
Medal of Honor recipients and unveiled by President Ronald Reagan at
the White House in 1984.

The former Air Force captain said she spent four years at the Pentagon
with the Defense Intelligence Agency and three years at the Tactical
Air Command at Langley Air Force Base, Va. She resigned her commission
after marrying a civilian and starting a family, and she started a
graduate-degree program.

Cubero said her first year at the academy "was pretty rough."

"I wasn't used to being yelled at and being braced up against the wall
and told to tuck your chin in and do push-ups and sit-ups," she noted.
"The academic environment didn't bother me. The physical aspect didn't
bother me, but the mental and emotional challenge was tough. The
intent is to strip you down as individuals and form you into first a
follower and then learn how to be a leader and how to be a part of a
team. They do a very good job of that."

But the transition is tough, she said, for an 18-year-old who has
never been away from home.

"So emotionally and mentally it was quite a challenge. But one that I
think created a foundation for my success today," said Cubero, now a
client director at Hewlett-Packard. She's also on the board of
directors of the Girl Scouts Tejas Council.

In 1998, Cubero was inducted into the National Hispanic Engineering
Hall of Fame. In 2002, Hispanic Business magazine named her as one of
the "100 Most Influential Hispanics" in the United States. She has
been featured in several magazines and is a frequent keynote speaker.

She said the four years at the academy, the discipline, the
leadership, the skills she learned and the academic background all
laid a foundation for her successes in life. "The self-confidence I
have today was built there," Cubero said. "It had a tremendous impact
on my career and my success both in the Air Force and in the corporate

Her advice to young Hispanic women who are contemplating attending a
military academy is to "make sure it's something you really want; make
sure it's for you. If it's not for you, you will not survive. You'll
be very unhappy."

Cubero said those who are given an opportunity to attend an academy
should give back as they grow and learn. "Make sure you share those
learnings with others," she said.

When she spoke at the National Latina Symposium honoring Hispanic
women military academy graduates earlier this month, Cubero told the
gathering that her lifelong motto is, "You tell me I can't, and I'll
show you I will." While at the academy, she said, she learned the
value of an education is not just from books or classrooms, but also
from experiences and relationships. "I learned that the only barriers
in your way are those you create yourself," Cubero said. "I learned
the value of true friendship and what it means to serve others before
self." She said she also learned about an honor code that says, "We
will not lie, cheat or steal, nor tolerate among us anyone who does."
"And I learned that your integrity, your word, is something that no
one can ever take away," Cubero said. "I learned that serving your
country is not just about putting on a uniform every day; it's about
duty, pride, honor, character and about being part of a team." Since
graduating from the academy, Cubero said, she learned that the
definition of success "isn't in the size of your paycheck, but in the
opportunities you create for others and in the differences you can
make. "I've also learned that when they said, 'Just being an academy
grad will open up doors for you,' they really meant it; it's true,"
Cubero noted.

She gave her key ingredients necessary for success in today's
challenging times:

li type="disc" Develop relationships and cultivate networks: "You
can't survive on your skills alone. Good leaders don't have to have
all the right answers -- they just need to know where to go to get
them," she said. li type="disc" Practice lifelong learning: "Seek to
understand more than just your job. Look for ways to improve things
around you." li type="disc" Develop your business acumen and judgment:
"Ask questions. Seek a mentor. Continue to learn and grow and be
generous with what you learn. Don't be afraid to fail or you will
never succeed." li type="disc" Develop your leadership competencies:
"Whether it's government, military, corporate America, or an academic
institution, every organizations needs good leaders, at all levels."
li type="disc" Achieve personal clarity: "Be curious about yourself.
Understand what brings you fully alive, what matters most to you, what
motivates you, and design your life around those things. The better
you take care of yourself, the more you can be there for others."

2004092208a.jpg Linda Garcia Cubero, the first Hispanic woman graduate
of a service academy, said the academy had a tremendous impact on her
career and her success both in the Air Force and in the corporate
environment. Photo by Rudi Williams

2004092208a_hr.jpg High resolution photo

NOTE: View the original version of this web page on DefenseLINK, the
official website of the U.S. Department of Defense, at


Otis Willie
Associate Librarian
The American War Library
(310) 532-0634

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