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Marc Cisneros: 1939—: Army General, College President, Chief Executive Officer

Helped Orchestrate Numerous Army Offensive Strikes

From 1963 to 1965, Cisneros served as battery commander of the U.S. Army forces in Europe, stationed in Babenhausen, Germany. Cisneros's first combat experience came during the Vietnam war. In 1968, Cisneros worked as a senior operations advisor during the Tet offensive. The Tet offensive was a campaign launched in 1968 by the Viet Cong from the north in an effort to overtake South Vietnam. While the Viet Cong did not win the offensive militarily, they proved themselves to be a formidable force and Cisneros and his comrades worked hard to maintain their ground. Later, between 1971 and 1973, Cisneros served as a regional adviser trying to keep the South Vietnamese army from caving in.

From 1975 to 1977, Cisneros was a battalion commander at Fort Hood, Texas, and an artillery commander from 1984 to 1986. By the late 1980s, he was serving in Panama and worked his way up the ranks to become a general. Cisneros is most remembered for his role in the 1989 Panama invasion, in which he helped orchestrate the invasion and capture of then-dictator General Manuel Noriega, accused of drug trafficking and other crimes. During "Operation Just Cause," as the offensive was named, Cisneros served as commander of the U.S. Army South, making him the highest-ranking Latino in the U.S. Army. While the U.S. military planned to use force, Cisneros reminded his comrades that the enemy would probably crumble without an extreme use of force. According to the St. Petersburg Times, Cisneros told his commanding officers, "Listen, most of these people are not going to fight. Give them a chance to surrender and they will. You don't have to blow everything to kingdom come." Cisneros wanted to win the campaign, but he wanted to minimize the devastation to the country's cities and homes.

At a Glance . . .

Born Marc Anthony Cisneros on April 5, 1939, in Brownsville, TX; married Eddy Virginia Durham on November 3, 1964; children: Marc Jr., Kenric, Kara. Education: St. Mary's University, San Antonio, TX, BA, 1961; Shippensburg State University, Shippensburg, PA, MA, 1968; U.S. Army War College, Carlisle, PA, graduate, 1978. Military Service: U.S. Army.

Career: U.S. Army, second lieutenant, 1961; U.S. Army in Europe, Babenhausen, Germany, battery commander, 1963-65; U.S. Army, Fort Hood, TX, battalion commander, 1975-77; U.S. Army, artillery commander, 1984-86; stationed in Panama, late 1980s; U.S. Army South, Panama, commander, 1989-90; Investigations and Oversight in the Office of the Secretary of the Army, deputy inspector general 1992-94; Fifth U.S. Army at Fort Sam Houston, TX, commanding general, 1994-96; Texas A&M-Kingsville, president, 1998-01; John G. and Marie Stella Kenedy Memorial Foundation, Corpus Christi, TX, CEO, 2001–.

Awards: Received two Distinguished Service Medals, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star; named one of "100 Most Influential Hispanics," Hispanic Business Magazine, 1997.

On the day after the invasion, Cisneros discovered that one of Noriega's captains, Amadis Jimenez, had been captured. Fluent in Spanish, Cisneros persuaded Jimenez to call his comrades and urge them to surrender. By working the phone lines, Cisneros and Jimenez got all nine of Noriega's provincial commanders to surrender their collective 5,000 troops—75 percent of the forces. "People describe Marc as having won the war with a telephone," General Fred Woerner told the St. Petersburg Times. "He saw a way to accomplish the mission, and at the same time minimize the loss of life and destruction. He was the glue in Just Cause." Cisneros did not give himself much credit for his role in minimizing the loss of life in Panama. According to U.S. News & World Report, when a friend asked him how he wanted to be remembered, Cisneros said, "Just say, 'He was a hell of a soldier.'" Cisneros was also the one who calmed the fears of Panamanians by going into their villages and speaking to them in Spanish.

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