DEOMI Marine honored for efforts as a diversity advocate


Master Sgt. Maria E. Florentino was the sole U.S. Marine recently recognized for her service at the 12th annual National LATINA Symposium, a national platform for Latina professionals addressing issues affecting Hispanic women in the United States. She is currently assigned to the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute at Patrick Air Force Base. Photo courtesy of Christopher Calkins

Marine Master Sgt. Maria Florentino, assigned to the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute at Patrick Air Force Base, recently was awarded the Distinguished Military Service Award for her efforts as an advocate for diversity.

Florentino was honored Sept. 9 during the 12th annual National LATINA Symposium in Washington, D.C. The event’s awards program salutes Latina military and civilian personnel who have enhanced the role of Latinas in their organizations.

“I’m just very humbled. I wasn’t expecting it whatsoever,” Florentino, a 22-year Marine Corps veteran, said of the award. “It’s definitely an honor to be able to receive the award and to represent how important it is to advocate for minorities.”

Florentino is the DEOMI non-commissioned officer in charge for Curriculum and Instructional Standards Office, and also serves as a curriculum developer. Florentino’s team develops and manages all DEOMI curricula, provides development programs to DEOMI faculty and executes the curricula, and serves as the institute’s standards and evaluation arm.

Florentino was recognized for her community service as a volunteer as well as her leadership and mentorship as an equal-opportunity advocate in the military.

“In my opinion, one of the biggest things that can hinder mission readiness is when people use their own individual attitudes, values and beliefs to negatively impact another individual or a group of people, and or personal agenda,” she said. “Equity, dignity, respect and cooperation among all individuals are essential values in the (Department of Defense) work environment.”

Launched in 1971 and formerly known as the Defense Race Relations Institute in response to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, DEOMI offers equal opportunity and equal employment opportunity education and training for military active duty and reservists as well as civilians. The institute has trained more than 43,000 students.

Born in Mexico City, Florentino moved to Chicago at age 6 with her mother to join other family members living there. She enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on Nov. 4, 1993, attending boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Paris Island, S.C., where she earned her first Marine job as a food service specialist.

After serving in Japan, Virginia and California, Florentino became a Marine Corps equal opportunity adviser at DEOMI in 2010. She came to Patrick in 2012, accompanied by her daughter, Yoselin.

“DEOMI teaches leaders they are accountable for the performance of their communities and commands including the education, technical proficiency and professional development of their people — as well as ensuring that their people understand the cultures in which we operate,” Florentino said.

“Marked changes in the demographic makeup of the United States will soon throw existing disparities into sharp contrast, creating a workforce recruiting pool that looks very different from the pool of 30 to 40 years ago, from which today’s leaders were drawn,” she added.

Navy Cmdr. Yolanda Mason, DEOMI’s chief of staff, praised Florentino’s selection.

“What a great honor for Master Sgt. Florentino,” Mason said in a statement. “It is the duty of each of us to work to make the Department of Defense a workplace of choice that is characterized by equity and inclusion, and one that is reflective of this great nation we represent.”

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