Fil-Am nominated to head Defense Health Agency

PRESIDENT Barack Obama has nominated a Filipina for a high-ranking promotion in the United States Navy.

Rear Admiral Raquel C. Bono, who was promoted in September 2014, was nominated by the president to the rank of Vice Admiral and for the position of Defense Health Agency (DHA) director. She currently serves as director of the DHA’s National Capital Region Medical Directorate and the 11th chief of the Navy Medical Corps.

If Bono’s nomination is approved, she will become the highest-ranking Filipino-American naval officer in the US.

The news was announced by Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Thursday, Sept. 17.

As DHA director, she will oversee an organization responsible for executing the military health program, including providing common health services for military hospitals and clinics, overseeing Tricare, and managing the system’s information technology, education, training, research and facilities programs.

Vice Admiral Matthew L. Nathan, the Navy surgeon general, has described Bono as a “role model for others to emulate,” acknowledging the contributions of her veteran family.

Bono’s grandfather served as a Filipino obstetrician in the US Army as a colonel during World War II, according to Inquirer. Twenty years later, Bono’s parents migrated to the US and settled in Minnesota, where her father finished his surgical residency and joined the Navy Reserve, retiring as a captain.

Bono and her younger brother, retired Rear Admiral Anatolio B. “AB” Cruz III, made US Navy history in 2012 when they became the first and only Filipino siblings to hold flag-officer ranks simultaneously, the DHA reported.

Cruz served as deputy commander of the US Naval Forces Southern Command and deputy commander, US Fourth Fleet.

“These two Navy officers are serving as prime examples of the diversity found within the Navy’s ranks,” said a press release from the US Department of Defense in 2012.

Service to others, service to country

Commissioned in June 1979, Rear Admiral Raquel Bono received her baccalaureate degree from the University of Texas at Austin and attended medical school at Texas Tech University, according to her official biography.

As the eldest child, she initially wanted to go into nursing, but her father challenged her to go even further to become a doctor.

“[Raquel] was the smart one and very disciplined at everything she did,” brother AB Cruz commented. “Dad set the bar and she raised that bar. Quite frankly, she deserved to make flag before I did.”

Bono was well trained in the health professions; after completing a surgical internship, Trauma and Critical Care fellowship, and her general surgery residency at the Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. She was the first woman to graduate from the program.

“What I enjoyed about being in the Navy was that I always felt confident in my ability to be advanced was going to be based on my capabilities and my performance. I felt that I had an equitable opportunity to succeed,” Bono said in a 2012 interview with the Asian Journal.

Shortly after training, Bono saw duty in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm as head, Casualty Receiving, Fleet Hospital Five in Saudi Arabia from August 1990 to March 1991. Later, she was stationed at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth as a surgeon in the General Surgery department; surgical intensivist in the Medical/Surgical Intensive Care Unit, and attending surgeon at the Burn Trauma Unit at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.

Other prestigious duties/positions she held were director of Restorative Care, medical corps career planning officer, director for Medical-Surgical Services at the National Naval Medical Center, and executive assistant to the 35th Navy Surgeon General and Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. She also held many top positions, such as commanding officer, chief of staff, deputy director of the Office of the assistant secretary of Defense, Health Affairs (OASD/HA), director of Medical Resources, Plans and Policy (N093), Chief of Naval Operations, and in 2011, the command surgeon of U.S. Pacific Command, Camp H.M. Smith, as well as acting commander Joint Task Force National Capital Region Medical (2013).

As of 2014, Bono currently serves as director, National Capital Region Medical Directorate of the Defense Health Agency, and as the 11th Chief, Navy Medical Corps.

Bono’s personal decorations and recognitions include Defense Superior Service Medal (2), Legion of Merit Medal (4), Meritorious Service Medal (2), and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation medal (2). She was also awarded in 2009 as one of the 100 Most Influential Filipina American Women in the US.

“Service to others; service to country,” Bono said of her words to live by. “It was ingrained in us by our father and mother in gratitude to their adopted country, the United States.”

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