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Earning his pilot’s wings months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Roberto Cardenas was sent overseas as a B-24 pilot where he was wounded during a bombing mission. Returning to the US, he became involved in pioneering and testing new jet aircraft while working on an advanced degree in mechanical engineering. In 1955, Cardenas was named commander of three Air Force units in Okinawa before serving as chief of USAF headquarters. In 1964, he returned to Okinawa as commander of the 18th tactical Wing before being promoted to Brigadier General and assigned as vice-commander of the 16th Air Force in Spain. By 1969, Cardenas secured a seat on the joint strategic Target Planning Staff. He is one of the highest-ranking Hispanic military leaders.