Lt. Col. Lorenzo Ríos is looking for more than a few good men ... and women.
The 42-year-old father of three is looking for Latinos interested in combining a college education with a future in the military.
"Don't rule out college," said Ríos last Wednesday after welcoming two California State University, Fresno students who committed to the university's ROTC program.
Ríos -- who was born in Colima, México and worked in the fields alongside his parents in Washington state -- is in charge of the Fresno State ROTC program.
He wants to see more Latinos, especially in the officer ranks, in the ROTC.
"I want the community as a whole to be informed," he said. "Sixty percent of the college students are minority, including 30 percent who are Latino. Yet, 70 percent of the ROTC is Caucasian."
Ríos would be happy if he can get "one or two parents to say, 'Mijo, colegio first."
That is one reason Ríos, in his first year at Fresno State, is turning to the Latino community to hear him speak about the benefits of ROTC. The program helps students with scholarships, and a military commission awaits them upon graduation.
Ríos said high school students who think about joining the military should consider getting a college education first.
Daniela Bandera, a 21-year-old junior nursing major, has heeded that suggestion.
The native of Bogotá, Colombia stands 5-feet tall and weighs 110 pounds. "I'm small but mighty," she said.
She doesn't like going to the shooting range -- "I suck at shooting!" -- but she manages well in the physical training.
Bandera joined the ROTC after transferring from California Baptist University, where she was also in the ROTC.
"The leadership you get here is not just in the classroom," said Bandera. "It carries on with you through life."
Bandera, who moved to the U.S. at age 8 along with her mother, decided to study nursing because she saw how the father of a friend was treated during his losing battle with pancreatic cancer.
"I don't want another person to experience that," said Bandera, who explained her friend's father was rarely told about the severity of his condition earlier on when treatment could have helped him.
The fact that Fresno State has a strong nursing program, and an ROTC organization that helps with her college costs, was all Bandera needed to decide to move to Fresno.
Her mother was not too excited about having her daughter join the Army.
"Why the Army? Why can't you just be a nurse," was her mother's reaction.
Bandera responded, "The Army can help me be a better nurse."
After graduation, Bandera hopes to get assigned to Germany upon graduation. She wants to specialize in pediatric oncology "because I love kids."
Ríos points to Bandera as a role model for other Latinos.
"She will be an officer," said Ríos, smiling at the thought.
For Ríos, the Marine Corps was a way out of the orchards. But, he returned after his father got hurt after getting a hardship withdrawl, only to find people pointing him out of the orchards.
"You don't belong here in the orchards," he was constantly told. So, Ríos got out of his comfort zone and began working for a school district as a para-pro, a classroom position responsible for concentrated assistance for students.
Later, he joined the ROTC program and asked to be located in Fresno. Ríos loved the university's blue collar community and the chance to work with minority students.
Ríos is not a recruiter.
Call him an educator in that he wants the entire community to know more about the ROTC program and the financial assistance it can provide students.
Details: www.fresnostate.edu/ROTC or (559) 278-5464.