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Louis Caldera: 1956—: Educational Administrator

Emphasized And Improved Education Opportunities In Army

Caldera, the 17th Army Secretary in history, began to champion the educational and career opportunities that the Army offered, especially for those whose origins were, like his own, marked by hardship or discrimination. He spoke out frequently on the generous educational benefits that came with military service—a major lure for many recruits—and used his position to improve those offerings during his tenure. "I want soldiers who serve in the Army to walk away with more than just the pride of having served," Caldera told National Journal writer Sydney J. Freedberg, Jr. "I want them to walk away with marketable skills and with the education that they need to be successful."

Some of Caldera's efforts drew controversy, especially his 1999 suggestion that the Army raise its limit of accepting recruits who have earned only their General Equivalency Diplomas, or GEDs. He also promoted a new program called GED Plus, which offered education benefits to qualified recruits who enlisted and then finished their GED. The media jumped on the story, claiming that the Army—which had a recruiting shortfall of some 7,000 in 1999—was now desperate enough to take high-school drop-outs. But Caldera eloquently defended his plan, arguing that a series of tests would be administered to assess non-graduates' fitness for military service. As he explained in a letter to Business Week, "the truth is that many of our most highly decorated soldiers and highest-ranking career enlisted soldiers did not come to us with high school diplomas."

The situation was particularly relevant to young Latino men and women in the United States, Freedberg pointed out in a National Journal article. "Hispanics, who are historically patriotic and eager to enlist, were under-represented in the military because of their high dropout rates," Freedberg noted. "Hispanic leaders, and some academics, argue that the 'quitter' model did not fit an ethnic group whose dropouts often had to work to support impoverished families." Elsewhere in the article, Caldera agreed that a high school diploma was crucial to success in life, and championed the GED Plus program. It was a particular boon to those who came from Spanish-speaking households, like his own, he told Freedberg. His own brothers did not finish high school, and he said that they did go on to do "some college work, but I've seen how much they have struggled throughout their lives because they didn't get the same kind of educational start."

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Katie Burke (1953–) Biography - Personal to Galeazzo Ciano (1903–1944) BiographyLouis Caldera: 1956—: Educational Administrator Biography - Rose From Cadet To Army Secretary, Emphasized And Improved Education Opportunities In Army, Worked Toward Diversity In Army And Universities