St. Mary’s University graduate student Luisa Tobon, a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, has been awarded a 2015 LATINA Style Distinguished Military Service Award.

LATINA Style magazine bills itself as the “premier publication addressing the needs of the U.S. Latina workingwoman.” Tobon’s award was presented at the National LATINA Symposium in Washington on Sept. 9.

Tobon, who is studying International Relations at St. Mary’s, joined the Army in 2007 at age 17 to help pay for college. After her first year of service, she said she fell in love with the culture of the U.S. armed forces.

Tobon said in an email that she draws on lessons learned from her service every day.

“(I’m) able to deal with high-stress situations and making decisions that can affect a person’s life,” Tobon noted. “My leadership always trusted that I would do the best of my abilities to have a successful deployment just as any other male officer.”

“Being able to deal with “high-stress” situations in Afghanistan was a challenge because at the same time I had to show a ‘war face’ while making the best decisions under stress,” she said.

Tobon said she used the LATINA Style Symposium as an opportunity to inspire others to follow in her footsteps.

“Latinas are already slowly taking over big organizations,” Tobon said. “In the military, I see them making their way up the ranks just like any other male majority, they have the will and the drive that it takes to be great military leaders.”

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