DOTHAN, Ala. –
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Robert Salazar, commander for the 787th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion Headquarters and Headquarters Company out of Dothan, Alabama, grew up in Crestview, Florida. He attended the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program at Northwest Florida State College for two years before accepting a scholarship to complete his education at the University of West Florida (UWF) in Pensacola.
Commissioning as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve in 2015, Salazar works in the civilian sector as a restaurant and bar manager. He identifies the development of interpersonal tact as one of the key skills that translate from the Army to his civilian job, as well as learning to plan, trust and communicate with others.
Salazar was motivated to become an officer because of the educational opportunities that were available through ROTC, as well as knowing that he wanted to lead others and help them grow as professionals and individuals.
“I enjoyed ROTC because I was lucky enough to go to UWF where we had prior Special Forces enlisted personnel that taught us,” said Salazar. “Having their prior service experience really helped shape me as a leader, and I found ROTC to be a lot of fun.”
Addressing the need for junior officers to step up and accept command positions, Salazar offered advice to those interested in taking on the job.
“Never stop learning,” said Salazar. “There’s Professional Military Education (PME) classes or some other course you can always take, and if you are not enrolled in them you should be, there’s nothing stopping you.”
Salazar also spoke of the importance of establishing trust with your Soldiers and getting to know them.
“There’s nothing better than watching Soldiers learn new skill sets, get promoted and become subject matter experts,” said Salazar. “There is satisfaction in watching the team grow and become more efficient at their jobs.”
According to Salazar, being a commander is a huge responsibility but it is well worth the challenge.
“You are really going to test your philosophies as a leader,” said Salazar. “You are definitely more involved with the workings of the unit as a whole rather than just the part you were responsible for as a platoon leader, and that means the job can be very time consuming with many time constraints. For me, the best thing is being able to lead Soldiers and having a direct impact on them and the environment of the unit.”