Commentary

Gil Cisneros: A life of service towards others

The nomination of Gil Cisneros to be under secretary for personnel and readiness at the Department of Defense is welcomed by the Hispanic Veterans Leadership Alliance (HVLA) as timely and visionary.

The Biden-Harris administration has selected an experienced career professional who throughout his career has dedicated himself to a life of service. Cisneros, demonstrated that zeal during his recent term as an elected congressman in the Southern California area, and his constant attention to the needs of a diverse population of Asian American, Native American, African American, and Hispanics clustered in the 39th Congressional District of California.

Gil started his service to the nation as an enlisted seaman and quickly rose to the rank of commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy serving a total of 11 years. Certainly his career in the military gave Cisneros added skills that would serve him well later in life. After the military, he worked for a time as a shipping manager at a major corporation. In 2010, a life-altering event gave he and his family a monetary windfall that permitted them to establish a series of charitable ventures in support of the education of Hispanic students of all ages.

Even though Gil was busy running his charitable projects, he soon decided that he could help his constituents more by running for political office. So he dedicated himself to win the race for elected representative of a highly contested and traditional conservative district in California. After a hard-fought battle and one month of suspenseful counting of the votes, he was confirmed as an elected congressman in 2018. The next two years he was known as an ardent champion of his constituents, always involved in their well being and demonstrating that zeal in Washington, D.C., as well as back home in his district. He was well regarded as a politician that cared for everyone no matter what group or minority faction they came from.

Among his congressional duties, the first term representative got a coveted assignment as a member of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee (HASC) and, importantly, the HASC Military Personnel Sub-Committee. There, Cisneros was able to defend the rights of personnel that during his military career he had witnessed were subject of mistreatment, abuse, and outright discrimination. A fervent advocate for our veterans, military families, and the well being of our military personnel, Cisneros demonstrated his commitment to them when he co-introduced the I Am Vanessa Guillén Act to prevent further cases of sexual harassment and making such cases a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

One trait we are most proud of Cisneros is his commitment to building a diverse military, the equitable promotion of minority officers, and removing extremism from our ranks. He demonstrated that best when he arranged a briefing to the entire Congressional Hispanic Caucus on the status of minority representation in the upper ranks of the military. Additionally, he supported these efforts with a congressional letter to the secretary of defense.

For years, HVLA has been advocating for increased diversity in senior level positions in defense, especially for positions that directly influence personnel policies and practices. This nomination of an exceptionally qualified professional that has a proven track record of advocating for improved diversity and inclusion is a great sign that HVLA concerns are being heard and that the White House and DoD are serious about change. The Hispanic Veterans Leadership Alliance is appreciative of his support and foresees his success in the new role at the Department of Defense.

We support his confirmation by the Senate and wish Gil “fair winds and following seas” ahead.

Ricardo Aponte is a retired brigadier general and member of the board of directors of the Hispanic Veterans Leadership Alliance. The past three years he led the military academies selection board and was a member of the veterans committee for then Representative Cisneros.

Editor’s note: This is an op-ed and as such, the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please contact Military Times managing editor Howard Altman, haltman@militarytimes.com.

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