By Lena Anthony
Photograph courtesy of Ariel Batungbacal
Volume 148, Number 1, January/February 2014, Page 5
She’s barely into her 30s, but Ariel Batungbacal already has a globe-spanning rèsumè. Now a major in the U.S. Air Force, she has served more than five years in overseas assignments, supporting military intelligence operations in Asia, Europe and the Middle East, including three deployments supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. For her work in the Air Force, she received the Defense Meritorious Service Medal and two Air Force Meritorious Service Medals, among others. She also worked for the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon.
In 2012, Maj. Batungbacal was appointed to the 2012-2013 class of White House Fellows. One of America’s most prestigious programs for leadership and public service, the White House Fellowship was created by President Lyndon B. Johnson to give a select number of young leaders the opportunity to contribute meaningfully at senior levels of the federal government.
As a fellow, she got to meet President Obama, have lunch with cabinet secretaries and lead important initiatives. She calls the experience “truly remarkable” because of the other fellows. “They come from diverse backgrounds, making amazing impacts in unique fields, like climate science, computer science, justice and medicine, but all are driven to improve the world using their talents,” says the member of Margaret Whetten Chapter, Washington, D.C.
Maj. Batungbacal’s fellowship finished in September, and she already has settled into her latest Air Force assignment—providing direction on missions around the world from her post in Florida.
Growing up in Marietta, Ga., Maj. Batungbacal knew she wanted to work in international affairs, but she saw her future in the Peace Corps or the Foreign Service. It was during college—at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she studied government, politics and Chinese—that she looked into a military career path and “found a new, challenging way to serve” that she had never considered.
“My personal experience in the military has been tremendous,” Maj. Batungbacal says. “I appreciate the opportunity to serve, learn and lead within this organization because its values align with my personal values: integrity, excellence and service. I also appreciate the opportunity and challenge to work in this world-class organization that is a global leader in innovation."
Her rèsumè also includes thousands of hours of volunteer work—with organizations like the DAR, the Junior League, Hermandad de Sigma Iota Alpha, Inc., and most recently, the Doolittle Foundation, a nonprofit that encourages veterans to record their personal histories and links existing veterans groups to local schools so they can share those stories as lesson plans.
“I am passionate about the Doolittle Foundation’s mission. By teaching our youth about our nation’s great warriors, their service and sacrifice are never forgotten,” Maj. Batungbacal says.
She also was drawn to the foundation, named after the World War II General Jimmy Doolittle who led the Tokyo Raiders, because of the family stories she and her sister heard growing up.
“All of our ancestors journeyed across oceans for a better life: from our Filipino great-grandmother Carmen, who immigrated here in 1910, or my ancestor John Hazleton, who was a surgeon in the American Revolution eight generations ago,” she says. “My parents instilled a sense of pride and commitment to honoring our family history to both understand where we came from, and to give us a sense of foundation to make an influence going forward. I feel a deep sense of gratitude and responsibility to those who have come before me, and those who are neighbors today.”
Her rich family history also is what drew her to DAR. “I remember visiting my grandparents in Vermont every summer and hearing stories about our family history going back to the beginning of this country,” she says. “When I learned about the DAR, I knew it was an amazing way to honor our family’s history.”
Maj. Batungbacal says that she stays busy, between the Air Force and her various volunteer commitments, but that’s her goal. “My mother always talked to us about taking care of our corner of the earth,” she says. “Ultimately, I want to earn each day.”