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NEWS | Jan. 19, 2006

'Q and A' with Reserve's top enlisted

By Staff Sgt. Engels Tejeda 207th Public Affairs Detachment

Q: Sergeant major you are retiring, right? 

A: Yes [smile].

Q: Sergeant major, how would you describe your service in the military?

A: I would say, if I had to sum it up in a couple of words: It's all about Soldiers. It's always been about Soldiers. As a noncommissioned officer, my position exists solely to take care of Soldiers and accomplish the mission. And I've never deviated from that and I know in my heart, I know, that's why I've been extremely successful in my career. 

Q: Sergeant major, today you asked some of the Iraqi nationals whether they were surprised to see so many females in the U.S. military. How has the military's gender makeup changed during your career? 

A: When I first came in, the most senior enlisted female that I saw, between 1982 and 1985, was a staff sergeant. Over the years, of course, I've seen sergeants first class, master sergeants, first sergeants and command sergeants major. We still have a ways to go. I'm the first female in this position, and that was in 2002 " 24 years after we disbanded the Women's Army. So we still have some work to do, but I will say that the Army is a great equalizer. And what I mean by that is, if you are wearing the rank, you are assuming responsibility regardless of gender. So women are in leadership positions, women are here in combat, maybe not direct combat as in the infantry, but they engage with the enemy just like any other Soldier would. And that has been tremendously satisfying to me as a noncommissioned officer " that Soldiers who just happen to be females are holding their own in theater. 

Q: Sergeant major, earlier you spoke with Brig. Gen. [Rebecca] Halstead, the commander of the 3rd [Corps Support Command currently serving in Iraq]. And she told you that she has capitalized on the skills that Reserve component Soldiers bring to the table from their civilian careers. How has the relationship between the active and reserve components changed during your tenure? 

A: First of all, we've never had as many Reserves and active Soldiers working side by side as we have now. So we have a generation of Soldiers now that knows what it's like to work side by side with his battle buddies. I always say our nation gives us two ways to serve, active component or reserve component, and neither service mitigates the other. We are complementary.

Q: Sergeant major, are the components getting along better? 

A: Yes. Are there still some problems? Yes. There is what I call an "elitist's attitude" sometimes from the active component towards the reserve component, yes. But then again this is an organization of elitism. And what I mean is, if you just take a Soldier who is airborne qualified and a Soldier who is not, the Soldier who is airborne qualified says "I'm a better Soldier." Same thing [happens] with the Rangers, Special Forces, infantry. So I think it's pride in what you belong to. But it has gotten a lot better than what it was and I think as we continue on this global war on terrorism, it will wane away and there will be one day when you are a Soldier.

Q: Sergeant major, many career Reservists who had never been mobilized before now have seen two or three deployments. Where is the Army Reserve headed in terms of deployment frequency? 

A: As far as deployments, it depends. In the traditional Army Reserve, you are right, most units never mobilized and deployed. But when you look at special operations forces, such as civil affairs and psychological operations, they've actually been deploying since Desert Shield " Desert Storm. So it's been a continuous mobilization for Soldiers in those career fields.

Do I see more deployments? Yes, especially right now. However, for the future, we will have predictability. The Army Reserve has restructured, reorganized, and transformed, to where a Soldier in the Army Reserve can expect to deploy once every five years, if there is need. So that's where we are going to.

Q: Sergeant major, what has been the most enjoyable part of your career? 

A: To see a Soldier that everyone else is kind of given up on, to have the ability and be in a position that allows me to reach and touch a person, not just to develop their Soldiers" skills, but to give them life skills. And no matter if they stay two years, 10 years, 20 years, that something hopefully that I've given them has made them a better person, a better human being, a better citizen. There are very few career fields that allow you to do that. But it's time to turn that range over to somebody else. In order for others to grow, I have to go. 

Q: Sergeant major any final messages for your NCOs? 

A: If you concentrate on taking care of your Soldiers, your Soldiers will always take care of you. Don't just be good at what you do, be excellent. 

Q: Sergeant major, what are you planning to do when you retire? 

A: Nothing for at least three months. I'm going to relax, enjoy my family, my friends. I don't know what the future holds for me as far as a new career. But, we probably haven't heard the last of me.