Spotlight NCO
Sgt. 1st Class Maria Estrada, seen here as Young, a jumpmaster from Company E, 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, conducts mock-door training prior to the brigades Joint Force Entry Exercise on Jan. 29. Mock door training is to help familiarize Paratroopers with the door of the aircraft before a jump.

<b>Sgt. 1st Class Maria Estrada</b>

<b>Age:</b> 40
<b>Current Position:</b> Battalion Motor Sergeant
<b>Current Unit:</b> E Company, 1st Battalion 325 Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division
<b>Component:</b> Active Army
<b>Current Location:</b> Fort Bragg, N.C.
<b>Hometown:</b> Fresno, Calif.
<b>Years of Service:</b> 18

FORT BRAGG, N.C. -Sgt. 1st Class Maria Estrada, a Fresno, Calif., native, is in charge of 35 Paratroopers, but according to her Soldiers it's more like she has 35 children.

"She just doesn't give an allowance," Sumnter, S.C., native, Spc. Marvin Zapf, chimed in.

"She's great with giving advice," Zapf explained. "She's always trying to be involved."

Being involved with Soldiers is just one of the many things Estrada, a battalion motor sergeant for 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, enjoys about being a leader. Training Soldiers is another.

Prior to coming to the 82nd Airborne Estrada spent two years training new Army recruits how to be Soldiers when she was a drill sergeant at Fort Jackson, S.C.

"I love training Soldiers," she explained. "Even as a private I knew I wanted to be a drill sergeant."

Since coming off the trail, she's run into 130 of her old Soldiers.

"The first 10 caught me by surprise," she explained, "after that I figured I'd better start keeping track."

Some of the Soldiers that she initially trained were staff sergeants by the time she crossed paths with them again.

"I'm proud that they have been so successful."

Her Soldiers aren't the only ones who've been successful in their Army careers, on January 29, Estrada, a two time Iraq veteran, completed her sixty-fourth jump and achieved the highest level of success that a Paratrooper can reach, Master Parachutist.

"It's the best job ever," Estrada explained of being a jumpmaster, which she's been since 1998.

"It has nothing to do with being prestigious," she casually said. "As a leader you should want to be a jumpmaster and as a Paratrooper you should want to be a jumpmaster."

In fact jumping out of planes is a main reason why Estrada originally joined the Army. However, it took eight years before she actually had the opportunity to attend the basic parachutist course.

"While I was in jump school my first sergeant kept asking 'When are you going to come back and be my jumpmaster'' I said 'As soon as I figure out what that is, I'll be here," Estrada said.

A year after becoming an official Paratrooper she became jumpmaster.

Even with the almost 19 years of experience that Estrada has in the Army that doesn't stop her from constantly picking up some new tricks- of- the- trade.

"I know they say 'You can't teach old dog new tricks,' but I'm pretty sure I can learn some new tricks," she said laughing. "I learn something new from these young Soldiers everyday."

Estrada doesn't have plans to retire for at least another two to five years, but she's still striving hard to set the best example she can for any of her future replacements.

"If I do my job well enough someone will emulate me and than I can retire in peace knowing the Army is still in good hands," she assured.

Page last updated Fri February 20th, 2009 at 05:43