GOODYEAR, Ariz. –
There was never any doubt that Sgt. Roberto Cruz was destined for a career in the Army.
His father Raymond served 21 years in the Army Reserve, creating the inspiration for Cruz to follow in his path, something he is currently achieving as a recruiter for Goodyear Recruiting Station, Phoenix West Recruiting Company.
Cruz’s story began in 1986, when he was born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, where he grew up happily and watched his father’s service unfold.
“The military has always been a part of life thanks to my father. He served 21 years in the Army Reserve with several tours overseas,” Cruz said. “Like a good son, I wanted to follow in his footsteps one day. Besides my father, my grandfather on my mother’s side also served in the Army. He was drafted for the Korean War.”
Thanks to his father’s service, Cruz was able to graduate from college in 2010.
“I graduated from the University of Puerto Rico-Bayamón Campus in 2010, thanks in great part to my father giving me half of his GI Bill,” Cruz said. “The other half went to my younger brother, who also graduated from the same university in 2018. He is currently in Basic Combat Training at Fort Leonard Wood.”
At the age of 26, Cruz eventually made the decision to enlist in the Army Reserve in 2013, following years of careful thought.
“Prior to enlisting, I had decent paying job at a bank. I told my recruiter that I didn’t want a desk job, so I ended up becoming a horizontal construction engineer,” he said. “The Army basically taught me how to play with real life Tonka toys.”
This military occupational specialty allowed Cruz to gain valuable experience, in various locations and circumstances.
“I have been part of many construction projects throughout the years in several states. One of the most important ones was the construction and development of a forward landing strip in Fort Irwin, California,” he recalled. “Another very unique experience was being OPFOR (opposing forces) at Hohenfels, Germany. I had a lot of fun at Nuremberg experiencing the local culture.”
Cruz also encountered success at an Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition in 2017, finishing runner-up.
“I won at the company level, got promoted to sergeant and went up to represent my company as a noncommissioned officer,” he said. “I went through several competitions, all the way to the 416th Theater Engineer Command Division Best Warrior Competition, where I ended up finishing second.”
Having long hoped for a chance to serve overseas, Cruz finally got his wish in 2018, when his unit deployed to Syria in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
“While I was over there I took part in several construction projects, but the most memorable experience was being selected to train the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) how to operate heavy equipment just like we do,” Cruz explained. “Being part of that training program was a very fulfilling experience, especially teaching them how to operate the equipment safely and efficiently.”
Cruz said he helped train in excess of 100 SDF Soldiers as heavy equipment operators.
“They went on to take part in several projects, where they did their job flawlessly, with no losses of personnel or equipment ... something I am very proud of,” he continued.
In 2019, Cruz signed up for the Active Guard Reserve (AGR) program, where he found himself placed as a recruiter with the Phoenix Recruiting Battalion.
“I’ve been in recruiting for little over a year now. Having fellow Soldiers from all walks of life and a very knowledgeable chain of command definitely helps out a lot,” Cruz said. “Recruiting through the COVID-19 pandemic is very challenging, due to the fact that it’s an unprecedented event.”
For Cruz and his wife, Ruth, the future is clear, with the Army very much part of their future plans.
“My Army career will continue to develop within recruiting and the AGR program, up until my reenlistment,’ Cruz added. “Following that, I would like to deploy at least a couple more times.”