The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) is committed to increasing diversity within its ranks to better reflect Canada’s cultural mosaic – and two Canadian Army (CA) officers have taken it upon themselves to shine a light on the contributions of Latin-Canadian members in particular.

Captain Rey Garcia-Salas and Captain Milton Hoyos hope to see, beginning as early as next year, Latin-Canadians acknowledged with an event similar to Black History Month each February and Asian Heritage Month in May. Related activities are held at the discretion of various regional Defence Visible Minority Advisory Groups within the Department of National Defence.

“The intention is to have a week or two weeks sharing stories about Latino-Canadian military personnel,” said Capt Garcia-Salas, “to share their stories so Canadians can learn that they represent the community well and are contributing to the Canadian Armed Forces and the nation.”

Both men were part of a CAF delegation to this year’s Festival Latino in Ottawa. They and about a dozen other CAFrepresentatives took part in the event.

“We are serving here as an example for new generations with this activity,” Capt Garcia-Salas said, speaking just before marching in the festival’s opening parade. He hopes a formal event within CAF will also serve as a demonstration to young Latin-Canadians that the organization is both welcoming and an excellent place to build a rewarding career.

Shortly after relocating to Canada from his native Guatemala in 1996, Capt Garcia-Salas joined the Army Reserve to support his studies at Carleton University in Ottawa. He later joined the Regular Force and is currently helping oversee the tactical information management officer course at the Canadian Army Command and Staff College (CACSC) in Kingston, Ontario.

“I was seeing advertising that the Canadian Armed Forces were recruiting in the Reserves for summer jobs and there was a good attraction for me to join and learn different skills that I could apply later on,” he recalled. “And I noticed that the Canadian Armed Forces is a very well-maintained organization, very well educated. You can take different courses, the technology’s up-to-date and you can use this later in your life.”

Captain Hoyos relocated to Canada from Peru in 1996 and joined CAF after working in the private sector for a decade. He is currently posted in Ottawa to the office of the Assistant Deputy Minister (Information Management), which leads the planning, development, and delivery of information technology and management within CAF. He said moving to the military opened many new doors and that he has enjoyed the diverse and collaborative work environment.

“Other companies where I’ve worked as a civilian, I didn’t get this kind of training. I am happy. Ten years in the Canadian Armed Forces and I plan to stay until my retirement. In Canada, everybody is of different nationalities. The Canadian Armed Forces reflect Canada – other nationalities, other languages. We share, we work together.”

“You have opportunities to grow inside the organization,” Capt Garcia-Salas added. “You have the opportunity to attend different courses, you have the opportunity to learn from different people with different experiences, and you are going to have the opportunity later on when you retire, or even if you’re not retired, to use that knowledge in your life. The Canadian Armed Forces is a very professional organization. You have women and men together, you can find Asian people, people coming from Africa. We work together as one entity.”