Alfred A. Valenzuela: 1948(?)—: Major General, Army Officer Biography
Hispanic Magazine said of Alfred A. Valenzuela, "The nation's highest-ranking active-duty Hispanic military officer loves God, his family, the U.S. Army, sports, and birds. He is a walking recruitment center, a loving husband and dad, a church-going Catholic, live-by-the-rules guy, a perfectionist, and a funny man." Major General Alfred A. Valenzuela has served in posts around the world including Panama, Germany, Korea, El Salvador, and Turkey. He has been decorated many times for his service to his country and although known as being a tough disciplinarian, the people who work with him speak highly of him and his way of doing things.
Valenzuela was born in San Antonio, Texas, around 1948. He went to Catholic School, and was in the Cub and Boy Scouts, where he earned the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout. He was interested in the military early in life and joined the JROTC in high school, and the ROTC at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, where he received both a bachelor of arts degree in government and a master of arts in political science with an emphasis on Latin American studies and national security affairs. He was commissioned there as a distinguished military graduate. He continued his education in the military at the Field Artillery Basic and Advanced Courses, the Defense Strategy Course, the Army War College, the National Security Management Course, and the Airborne Course. He also graduated from the U.S. Army Command and the General Staff College, the Armed Forces Staff College, the Air War College, and the Inter-American Defense College.
After serving in many positions around the globe and working his way up through the ranks of officers, Valenzuela served as the deputy commanding general and deputy joint task force Panama commander at the U.S. Army South. After that he served as assistant division commander (Support) of the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized) at Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, from October of 1996 until June of 1998. In 1997, he became a one-star general.
He received his second star in 1998 and in June of that year was made deputy commander in chief of the U.S. Southern Command, based in Miami, Florida, which had relocated from Panama in 1997. The Southern Command oversaw military operations in Latin America and the Caribbean, except Mexico, working, in recent years, on anti-drug efforts, disaster relief, preserving stability, and countering threats to vital U.S. national interests, as well as assisting friendly nations within its area of responsibility. According to the Southern Command website, "[U.S. Southern Command] is engaged in promoting democracy and stability while fostering collective approaches to regional threats, and providing the vitality, integrity and strength to our military allies and their support for democracy and their institutions. Furthermore, when required, it responds unilaterally or multilaterally to crises that threaten regional stability or national interests and constantly prepares to meet future challenges in the region." It is one of five regional commands found around the world. About Valenzuela's work with the Southern Command, Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera called Valenzuela "One of our most impressive officers." Valenzuela's one-time executive officer U.S. Air Force Major Elizabeth Almeida told Hispanic Magazine that he was "people-oriented, approachable, a people's general, a wonderful role model, and not only for Hispanics, but for all in the military. You don't have to be important to see him or for him to make time for you. He makes everyone who comes to see him feel important."
In July of 2000 Valenzuela assumed command of the U.S. Army South, at Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico. The U.S. Army South is the Southern Command's Army component, one of the five components of the Command that work together to fulfill the U.S. Southern Command's missions. According to the U.S. Army South's website, "[U.S. Army South] is in charge of all Army operations within USSOUTHCOM's twelve million square mile [area of responsibility]." As part of U.S. Army's duties, in 2002 Valenzuela met with Dominican Republic Major General Carlos Diaz Morfa concerning the illegal migrations of Haitians into their country and eventually into the United States. They have begun to work on stopping the flow. At the same time Valenzuela was looking to move U.S. Army South out of Puerto Rico. They considered many locations, but after careful deliberation chose San Antonio as their new home. They were to move there in 2003.
About his life in the military Valenzuela once told Hispanic Magazine, "I've had an American Dream since I was young and that was to be the best I could be. It just so happens that it was to be in the professional military. I knew if I could get up there (in the ranks) then I could turn around, come back, and give back to society, give back to the Hispanic youth who really doesn't understand the opportunity before him." And he has certainly taken that attitude and made an inspiring career for himself, while fulfilling his promise to help Hispanic youths. While in the line of duty, Valenzuela won not only respect and promotion, but also many awards. He has received several decorations, including the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit (with three Oak Leaf Clusters), the Soldier's Medal (for heroism), the Bronze Star for Valor, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal (with two Oak Leaf Clusters), the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Army Commendation Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster), the Joint Service Achievement Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal, and the Joint Meritorious Unit Award.
Amidst his very hectic and awarded Army schedule, Valenzuela has also managed to live a balanced and healthy personal life. He married Esther Trevino on February 1, 1970, when he was about to enter the Army. They have two children, Lori and Freddie, both of whom are very proud of their father's successes. Fred told Hispanic Magazine, "It's so weird, everybody says, 'Oh look who your dad is.' We just see him as Dad. Yes, we are proud of him, but at the same time, we don't treat him as a celebrity."
Valenzuela was also a prominent figure in a wider military and also civilian society. In 1999 he spoke at a conference about the Armed Forces' ongoing efforts to provide outreach to the Hispanic community. He was inducted, in 2001, into the Boys & Girls Clubs of America's Alumni Hall of Fame. The Boys & Girls Club was close to his heart because, as Hispanic PR Wire said, Valenzuela "learned about direction and discipline, two words that capture the essence of military service, at the Boys & Girls Club of San Antonio." In 2002 he was the honorary inductee into the Beta Nu Chapter of Phi Sigma Iota, an international foreign-language honor society at the United States Military Academy. He gave the keynote address for the ceremony. He has served on the board of directors for the Eagle Scout Association, the Torres Rivera Institute for Policy, Saint Mary's University, and the Texas Chapter of the Boy Scouts of America. He was also on the board of trustees of the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute and the board of advisors for the Uniformed Services Benefit Association, Inc. He was named one of the "100 Most Influential Hispanics" by Hispanic Business magazine. In 2003 the Texas House of Representatives honored Valenzuela for his exemplary dedication to the Armed Services and his country. And seeing as Major General Alfred A. Valenzuela has not finished his career yet, there are sure to be many more awards in the future.
Business Wire, April 16, 2002.
Houston Chronicle, December 30, 2001, p. 41.
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—Catherine Victoria Donaldson
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