Story by Maj. Carlos Cuebas
1st Mission Support Command
FORT BUCHANAN, Puerto Rico- After more than 30 years of service in the US Army Reserve, to include 4 years serving as Commanding General of the 1st Mission Support Command, US Army Reserve-Puerto Rico, Brig. Gen. Fernando Fernandez, the senior US Army Reserve officer in the Caribbean region, is stepping down during the month of October.
Fernandez was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Quartermaster Corps upon graduating from the University of Puerto Rico Reserve Officers Training Corps Program in 1983.He will now join the Individual Ready Reserve.
“When I started the career as a second lieutenant, most of my peers and I just wanted to reach the rank of captain. Reaching beyond that point was not even considered then,” said Fernandez while reflecting about his career in the Armed Forces, during a short interview, days before the end of his tenure.
Like other members of his generation, Fernandez experienced the drastic change of the Army Reserve mission, after Sept. 11, 2001.
Since then, the Army Reserve's ability to quickly mobilize its essential capabilities demonstrated to be a well-suited resource for meeting the nation's military requirements, as a part of the operational force.
“The transition from a strategic Army Reserve into an operational force, ready to deploy anywhere anytime, was a furious and fast process. The Army Reserve that I joined in the 80’s does not exists anymore. Back then, we had a generation of service members who did not voluntarily join the Army and who mainly were over 40 years of age,” said Fernandez.
According to the general, the profile of the Army reservist has changed enormously.
“Now we have a young force, very dynamic and flexible, which is what the new mission requires,” added the officer, whose first assignment was in the 597th Supply Company, US Army Reserve-Puerto Rico.
This flexibility has required sacrifices not only from the troops, but from their Families as well.
“To the families of the command, I want to express my deepest admiration and sincere recognition for their strength during these past 12 years of war. They are an essential part of our command and I consider them my Family as well,” said Fernandez.
In regards to his command goals, the brigadier general expressed a clear satisfaction.
“My command priorities included increasing the percentage of qualified soldiers on their assigned jobs, improving the levels of medical readiness and informing the community about the relevance of the Army Reserve. I believe we have accomplished all these goals,” said the commanding general of the 1st MSC.
“Of course, there are always areas that we can improve. For example, we still need to increase the number of officers in each one of our formations,” stated Fernandez, while referring to the need of providing leadership to the troops at all levels.
In fact, one of his most memorable moments is directly related to his troops.
“Something that I always remember is when my soldiers received me with a standing ovation in one of our meetings, shortly after my nomination for commanding general was made public by the United States Army Reserve Command. I will always remember that moment,” said a nostalgic Fernandez.
As the time to relinquish his command gets closer, Fernandez also spoke about his legacy.
“This endeavor was never about me. It has always been about accomplishing the mission and taking care of the soldiers. I hope that when people look back, they see that I dedicated my heart to this organization and that everything that I did, I did it for the soldiers. My ego never asked me to be a general. That was never my goal,” added Fernandez who occupied key positions within the command, from platoon leader to company commander, battalion commander, group commander and finally commanding general.
He also seized the opportunity to encourage the new generations of soldiers in the command.
“Feel proud of your uniform always. It is important to understand that the U.S. Army Reserve soldiers from Puerto Rico have distinguished themselves in every conflict since World War II, all the way to now in the mountains of Afghanistan. Let’s keep the legacy of our service,” stated Fernandez.
“I leave the command feeling at ease. The mission was always accomplished. Thanks to all of you, who supported me during all these years,” finalized saying Fernandez.