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NEWS | Oct. 8, 2020

Crossing the border to serving the country

By Courtesy Story Fort Hunter Liggett Public Affairs Office

When Mictania Villasenor with the 91st Training Division crossed the border from Mexico at the tender age of two, she began a tumultuous journey with a happy ending.

The only female civilian executive officer (CXO) for a one-star Army Reserve command, Villasenor is also an Army Reserve Soldier with 20 years of active and reserve service.

“I’m a Mexican-American and I am grateful for the opportunities this country has given to me and my family,” said Villasenor. “My journey has had a significant impact not only for me and my family, but for women in general who can relate to the experience. People say the sky’s the limit but it really isn’t. The world has infinite possibilities, and if you’re not given the opportunity, you have to demand it.”

The border crossing was a traumatic experience for both Villasenor and her mother. “My mom went to jail three times crossing the border and during her second try, she lost me in the process and we were separated for a whole month,” said Villasenor. Through a lot of tears and pleading with her captors, mother and daughter were reunited.

Villasenor says her mother kept trying to seek amnesty in the U.S. because she wanted a better life. “It was always hard. I remember always moving. Not always having a place to live and not always having food to eat,” said Villasenor. “I’m so proud of my mom. She’s a tough woman.”

Her mother worked hard and saved enough money to apply for the ‘green card.’ “The card actually says ‘Legal Resident Alien.’ It’s so weird, the word ‘alien’,” said Villasenor.

“If you don’t know English, you have to learn it. You have to study and learn about U.S. history, how the government works and the different branches.”

Applicants have to go in front of a board and pass a verbal test on the information they learned. Villasenor went through the process first because she was enlisted in the Army, which helped expedite her case. Her mother followed suit shortly afterwards, and they both became naturalized citizens in 2005.

Villasenor’s Army career almost didn’t happen due to limitations for females at the time. But she’s tough like her mother and is not one to take ‘no’ for an answer. In 2000, she went to a recruiter and told him that she wanted to ‘blow up things!’

“They looked at me and said, ‘you realize you’re a female and you can’t have these jobs,’” Villasenor said. The Army has since opened up all military occupations to women.

Her second choice was to be a military police officer but she didn’t meet the minimum age requirement for that career field at 19 years old. So she thought she could take college classes and see the world until she could be a MP. The recruiter dissuaded her from that field because of the work schedule and constant deployments.

So after more discussions, Villasenor decided to enter the logistics field and has been a “loggie” ever since. “He showed me a video of a 92A driving forklifts, in the warehouse, moving stuff around with big cranes in the field…so I thought that was cool. I can’t blow stuff up but I can move big things around!” She did some research on her own and found out how the logistics skills she’d learn through the Army would be easily transferable to the civilian sector and in high demand. “The opportunities are huge in this field and the pay is very good,” said Villasenor.

Villasenor served a five-year active-duty tour as a 92A automated logistical specialist in Germany. Today, she is an Army Reserve Soldier in the 92Y unit supply specialist/inventory management career field with the 63rd Readiness Division based at Moffett Field, California. In her military career, she is most proud of being a certified master fitness trainer (MFT). She enjoys teaching others live a healthy lifestyle and enabling them to stay in the Army.

She wasn’t always as fit as she is today. “After my initial military training and I went home for a break, everyone wanted to cook for me. So I ended up gaining a lot of weight,” said Villasenor. That’s when she began her journey to lose weight in a healthy manner. “I’m not going back home, and my story is not going to be kicked out of the Army for being overweight!” said Villasenor.

“Reserve Soldiers don’t have money for a personal trainer so I make sure I am available to help them.” The MFT program develops personalized workout and nutrition plans so those struggling with weight can meet Army physical fitness standards. “When people think about fitness, they think of treadmills or weights but there’s also meditation, yoga, and mindfulness. That is all part of being fit,” said Villasenor. “One thing I always advocate is that it all starts with your mind. Your mind needs to be healthy and at peace so your body can start reacting to your mind. Mind over matter.”

In her civilian capacity as the only female CXO in the Army Reserve, Villasenor has oversight of all the civilian and military staff with the 91st TD. She also has oversight for their budget, integrating Army and Army Reserve guidance into their command policies and being the commanding general’s key advisor. Since assuming the CXO position in 2016, she has served three general officers.

“Sometimes, my assertiveness tends to intimidate my uniformed male counterparts, and they try to exclude me or push back,” said Villasenor. “It started as a challenge but I’ve learned and it’s only made me stronger as a female in this career.” She is proud of providing level-headed support to her commanding generals. “Most people, when the general says something, everyone wants to jump. A lot of generals appreciate when you don’t jump and stay level-headed. They need the staff to help them think of things they might not have considered,” said Villasenor.

Some other highlights of her civilian career include being part of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency Foreign Military Sales team, 2013. “I learned how the U.S. works with our allies by providing equipment and training them so they can, in turn, help us when needed,” said Villasenor. Another milestone was a 2018 deploying to Afghanistan and being an advisor with the Ministry of Defense Advisor Program. “We helped Afghanistan build a stronger Afghan National Security Forces so they can stand alone with less American involvement,” said Villasenor.

Villasenor holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and is a year away from earning her master’s in Organization Management.

For women facing challenges in a male-dominated environment, she has words of encouragement. “Educate yourself. Fight exclusion with inclusion. Reinsert yourself with your knowledge, not by being loud or being aggressive.”