Spotlight NCO: Sgt. 1st Class Susan Fernandez
March 30, 2009
BRUSSELS, Belgium - Meet Sgt. 1st Class Susan Fernandez, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the U.S. Army Garrison Brussels Directorate of Public Works.
Fernandez does the gamut of work involved in allocating daily tasks, tracking work orders and otherwise tracking the time and attendance of five DPW employees.
In addition to managing the employees' workload, she also serves as the contracting officer representative for the large contract cleaning force responsible for the daily cleaning and husbandry of the garrison.
"She has a huge job," said Rogelio Preciado, the Brussels Public Works director. "On any given day, she's managing our workforce not only in our compound, but also on assignments dispersed all around Brussels, for example, at the school or at several of the VIP Quarters we manage."
Fernandez is a native of Trinidad in the West Indies. She came to the U.S. with her family at age 14, and spent her teen and early adult years in and around Brooklyn.
She enlisted in the Army in October 1998 because she wanted to move and she wanted to make a better life for her son. She did her basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and then did specialized engineering courses in carpentry, masonry, dry wall and tiling in Gulfport, Miss., before reporting to the Hawaii-based 84th Combat Heavy Engineering Battalion for a three-year tour.
Fernandez perfected her construction skills during this assignment and found she really enjoyed the work. In fact, she enjoyed it so much she routinely volunteered her weekends to work Habitat for Humanity construction projects in the local communities.
"I've always enjoyed volunteering," she explained. "In my trade, you get to see results quickly, and it's nice to see what we did being used."
From Hawaii, Fernandez transferred to Fort Rucker, Ala. A newly-minted staff sergeant, she served as a construction engineering supervisor, and she saw two deployments, one to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and a second to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi freedom. While deployed, she participated in several construction projects in the field. Returning from Iraq, Fernandez volunteered to be a Drill Sergeant.
"I'd always wanted to be a drill sergeant ever since I was in boot camp," she said. Based upon her own experiences, she particularly wanted the chance to mentor incoming new Soldiers. "The two years I spent as a drill sergeant at Fort Leonard Wood were really rewarding. I felt I really had a chance to make a difference and touch new Soldiers. It really made me feel good," she said.
Fernandez arrived in Brussels at the beginning of 2007. At the time, there was no civilian Public Works director, so, as NCOIC, she also served as the de facto director.
"Coming to Brussels has been a great experience," she explained. "I got the chance to learn a different set of skills, of how to supervise civilians, something I'd never done before. And there was also a lot of responsibility to take up. Until Mr. Preciado got here in April of last year, I was the Brussels engineer."
Preciado is very complimentary of Fernandez and her performance. "She does an excellent job administering the countless details involved in running a Public Works operation, and she definitely knows how to run our work force."
"I can truly say that I've enjoyed each and every assignment I've had," Fernandez said. "I really like the diversity of experiences. The Army has definitely been good to me and to my family. Finally, I really appreciate the opportunities it's given me as a woman and as an immigrant."