Hispanic Heritage Month: Q and A with Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Marion Garcia

Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Marion Garcia is the Deputy Commander, Joint Task Force GITMO​

Q - How does it feel to be the first Hispanic female general officer in the Army Reserve?

A - Until right now when you asked the question, I was not aware that I was the first.  The great thing about the U.S. Army is that we are all Soldiers first. I have had the good fortune to serve with great Americans of all races and demographics and I can tell you from the heart that I do not feel that I am any different from any of them. We are all here because we believe that there is something greater than ourselves. We are all here because we are looking for a challenge, to test our personal limits.

Q - Explain how your heritage impacted your career?
A - I grew up in a military family, my father was a Marine. So we lived all over the place including overseas and moved quite a bit. I think that we are all a product of our environment and mine was the military extended family.

Q - Was becoming a general officer one of your career goals?
A - My career goal was to command a Battalion. I have had the tremendous opportunity to command at the Company, Battalion, and Group level. Every time, I am impressed with the responsibility to get the mission accomplished while working hand-in-hand with the command sergeant major to ensure that our Soldiers are taken care of. For me, command has always been the prize for putting in hard work at the staff level. 
Q - Do you feel you are a role model for other Hispanic leaders? How?
A - I hope to be a role model for all our young people. I want them all to see Hispanics in their formation as fellow Soldiers. By being part of the team and focusing on what brings us together, that is how we gain acceptance. That being said, there's nothing like a large platter of enchiladas for Christmas dinner! Always happy to share.
Q - Why did you join the Army?
A - I wish that I had an inspiring story. But I wanted a good college education and when I got accepted to the US Military Academy, I knew that I would get one by going that route. It turned out to be the best decision I ever made.
Q - What was some of the best advice you received during your career? 
A - Not to be glib, but when I was a young battalion S3 going on an exercise, I had a colonel tell me "Don't do anything stupid." Sounds easy - unfortunately I have not always succeeded.
Q - Who has influenced your leadership style?
A - When I was a cadet, our company tactical officer was a female signal officer. She was absolutely awesome. Strong and successful but she also showed us by example that it was 100% OK to be an officer and lady - just like our male peers could be an officer and a gentlemen.
Q - What was the most challenging position of your career and why?
A - I think the position I'm in right now is the most challenging. As I say that, it sounds odd even to me because I deployed to Somalia as a company commander and to Iraq as a battalion commander. But here, the challenge is to not be the one in charge. My career so far has been about taking charge and making things happen. As the Deputy Commander, I have to be ready to assume the roles of the Commander at any time. As such, I have to fully understand his priorities and how he makes decisions because if I step in during his absence, I need to keep the train on the rail he has set for it. It sounds counterintuitive but it's much harder to make decisions in place of someone else rather than just make decisions myself. It's a great learning and growing experience.
Q - What lessons learned would you share with a company grade or junior field grade officers?
A - The advice I give every USAR Soldier:  Don't ever forget that your family comes first - and that you have to take care of yourself in order to take care of them. Your civilian job is your next priority - this is the profession that puts bread on the table for you and your family. Thank you for placing the Army Reserves as your third priority, give us everything you've got left - this is what keeps our nation safe. And specific advice for junior leaders:  take every job that the Army gives you and think, "Wow, I get to do this!" Compete for command. Get your military schooling completed ahead of the required time. Respect your peers and get along with them. Listen to your NCO. Be yourself.

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