Chief Petty Officer George Soto, a maritime enforcement specialist, an advanced law enforcement instructor assigned to the Coast Guard Maritime Law Enforcement Academy – is the Coast Guard’s recipient of the 2022 League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Excellence in Service Award.
This honor recognizes military members and civilian employees who advance diversity, education, economics, and health in communities with large, underrepresented populations. Soto was recognized for his achievements as District 7’s Offload Coordinator in Miami, Florida, from April 2021 to March 2022.
During the award period, Soto selflessly volunteered to support two local organizations, including a Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) program. There, he provided mentoring to 800 cadets aged 14 to 17 from 30 high schools in Southeast Florida and taught them life and leadership skills.
He also guided and prepared them for different military competitions and events in order to ensure their success. As a former member of his school’s JROTC program while growing up in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, Soto’s volunteer efforts have come full circle through his work supporting youth in Florida.
“As a JROTC student, I was drawn to the military lifestyle and the discipline which made me want to serve our country,” Soto said. His previous experience in a JROTC program allowed him to relate to and connect with those cadets, especially those with similar backgrounds to his own.
“It’s an amazing feeling to have Latin American students look up to me for career advice and life advice in general. I take this responsibility very seriously and I hope that I can make an impact and see many more Latin Americans gain an interest in and even join the Coast Guard.”
In his volunteer capacity, Soto taught the cadets to believe in themselves, meet their personal goals, and seek to make a lasting, positive impact in their communities — all of which Soto himself has been doing throughout his career.
“I have been volunteering for special programs outside of my normal duties for most of my 14-year career and I’m so honored to be recognized for it,” he stated. “It’s important for us in the Coast Guard to get out in our communities wherever we may be stationed. Many great things can be accomplished by getting to know your community and assisting one another by volunteering, mentoring, or helping the less fortunate.”
When Soto wasn’t volunteering, he emphasized cultural education within his unit and dedicated over 100 hours to planning and executing one of District 7's largest special observance celebrations during National Hispanic Heritage Month.
His actions educated the workforce on several Hispanic and Latin American cultures, promoted pride, and raised awareness of contributions made by diverse people and groups to American history and culture.
Through all of his actions, Soto carries the “cultura puertorriqueña” pride, as well as strong values and love for his heritage, culture, and family. These are qualities he credits to his mother, who instilled them in him while growing up in Puerto Rico. His passion for his community and culture makes the presentation of this award even more special.
“Representing the Puerto Rican community is something that I carry on my shoulders every single day, so it brings me great pride to receive this award,” Soto said.
Bravo Zulu to Chief Soto and all who were nominated for the award. The following nominees deserve mention for their outstanding contributions: Lt. Brian Crespo, Sector Puget Sound; Jeanette Perez, Community Services Command; and Jesus Porrata, Sector Miami.
Civil Rights awards like the LULAC Excellence in Service Award helps to maximize the Coast Guard's overall mission effectiveness through recognition of members' accomplishments and contributions to Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity in minority communities and Partnership in Education (PIE) programs.
Anyone within the Coast Guard can nominate an individual who is deserving of its Civil Rights awards. Visit the Coast Guard's Civil Rights website for a list of all of the awards and for more information.
LULAC is the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights volunteer-based organization that empowers Hispanic Americans and builds strong Latino communities. Find out more at www.lulac.org.
In the News:
Coast Guard chief petty officer recognized for contributions to under-represented communities