NEWPORT, R.I. - Navy Cmdr. Angela Katson, a student at the Naval War College (NWC), is utilizing her position as the national president of the Association of Naval Services Officers (ANSO) to encourage other Hispanics to fulfill their career aspirations in military service.
“I was so fortunate to have caring and concerned mentors when I was younger. They helped me realize that I had wonderful potential and that I could reach my career goals serving in the Navy,” said Katson, who was born in Colombia and is a naturalized citizen of the United States.
“Working with the dedicated people at ANSO has allowed me to share my life experiences with teenage students, enlisted military personnel and junior officers,” said Katson. “My mission is to make them aware that they have the ability to overcome personal challenges and achieve more in life than they ever imagined.”
ANSO was established in 1981 to proactively link the Hispanic community with the Coast Guard, Marines and Navy. The organization supports the sea service chiefs by assisting in Hispanic officer recruitment and retention; fostering the professional growth and development of Hispanic Sea Service personnel through mentoring, networking, training, and educational programs; and supporting and nurturing junior enlisted personnel desiring to apply for officer programs.
The nationwide organization also examines issues, develops initiatives and resolves problems that confront the Naval Services in the 21st Century. This includes not only recognizing and developing qualified Hispanics for officer opportunities, but also providing professional mentoring to enlisted personnel and junior officers who, in some instances, haven’t yet seriously considered making the military a career.
Katson and her colleagues take these responsibilities to heart when they spread the word about opportunities for minorities in the military. Organizations such as ANSO are essential in assisting the military especially during today’s tenuous recruiting environment. Due to higher retention and the current economic instability, the services can be more selective and, therefore, those who do not finish high school may find it difficult or impossible to enlist. As such, ANSO focuses on encouraging Hispanic youth to complete their degrees.
“We work hand-in-hand with the various recruiting commands to target a greater diversity of people who have the right skills to do the jobs for the Naval Services in our highly-competitive world,” Katson said. “We’ve come together to actively find ways to recruit, retain, mentor, and network in order to achieve the Chief of Naval Operation’s 2037 strategic diversity goal, namely that 13 percent of our active duty officer force should be highly qualified Hispanics. This would be a significant increase above our current rate of approximately six percent.”
Katson also personally reaches out to younger Hispanic audiences to spread the word about staying in school, setting achievable goals and receiving advice from officers who have achieved their professional dreams.
“There are so many teenagers who don’t plan on graduating from high school,” Katson said. “I came from a large Hispanic family—relatively poor—and wondered if I would even have the chance to finish high school. I studied hard, qualified for the Navy, received a paid college education, and I’m currently working toward my second master’s degree. I’m hoping this message resonates with young people and gives them a roadmap to follow in their lives.”
Katson recently spoke to more than 1,000 young Hispanic girls and their mothers on Latina’s Day during a diversity symposium at the University of Texas-Pan American.
“That was a golden moment for me to motivate and encourage those young women to make the most of their talent and abilities,” Katson said. “If my speech and my story caused the proverbial light bulb to go off in their minds and gave them positive food-for-thought, then my mission was successful.”
ANSO and the National Naval Officers Association (NNOA) are conducting a joint professional development and training symposium in Portsmouth, Virginia from July 26 to 30. The conference is unique because it’s the first time these organizations have come together at the same venue to mentor military personnel and share leadership ideas and initiatives. All three sea service chiefs plan to attend the event.
“NNOA is the African-American counterpart to our organization,” Katson said. “This is the first ever joint conference and we’re expecting more than 800 people to attend. Just imagine participating in a workshop where an enlisted person can sit across the table from an admiral and engage in one-on-one conversation to receive professional guidance. This will be mentoring at its best.”
By David Reese, Naval War College Public Affairs