1st Sgt. Shawnaree Perez is the recipient of the 1st Sgt. John Ordway Leadership Award from the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of AUSA.

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- 1st Sgt. Shawnaree Perez knows what it takes to set a Soldier's career path.

With experience as an active duty Soldier, National Guard Soldier and Reservist, Perez, who now serves with the Reserves' 318th Chemical Company (Heavy) in Birmingham, can advise her Soldiers regarding the options of today's total Army.

And it's a job she absolutely looks forward to every day.

"I think it's a great opportunity to work with Soldiers and influence them as they go through training and make decisions that affect their careers," she said. "I like my role as mentor the best. Watching young non-commissioned officers develop and go through the ranks is very rewarding. I want to make sure they understand their options so they can make clear and decisive decisions about their careers, and so they have a clear path."

Perez is the 2010 Reserve recipient of the 1st John Ordway Leadership Award presented by the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army. Reserve 1st Lt. Kevin Bacchus, commander of the 318th, recommended Perez for the award.

Bacchus described Perez, a full-time Reservist, as being "invaluable, a close friend and my 'right-hand man.' She serves our unit and the U.S. Army Reserve with diligence, professionalism, competence, humor and compassion. ... She has challenged the unit to instill a sense of spirit, ownership and responsibility through timely advice, guidance, mentoring and counseling."

Among her duties, Perez oversees her unit's readiness, individual and team proficiency, discipline, unit retention program, duty Military Occupational Specialty qualification rate, leadership development, and Soldier and family support program. She provides support to the 318th and other units on various administrative and medical issues, developing standardized counseling and checklists, and workspace organization. In January 2010, she served as the casualty assistance officer for a family of a Soldier from the 318th who was killed in a traffic accident.

Perez has served in the Army for 18 years, first as a Soldier in the Washington National Guard. She then served seven years as an active duty Soldier, and then joined the Reserves.

"I was from a very rural area. There were not a lot of job opportunities. The Army was something to do to get me out of town," Perez recalled. "But, as a National Guard, there were a lot of mobilizations so I might as well have been active duty.

"My entire Army experience has made me a more aware person. It taught me the importance of being decisive."

Regardless of where a young person wants to go in their life, Perez believes the military can help them reach career excellence.

"The military teaches you so many skills that can help you in a job and as a person. It can have a lasting positive impact on anyone's life, whether they decide to serve for 20 years or only a couple years, or if they decide to be a part-time Soldier in the Guard or Reserves," she said.

One of the challenges of a Reserve first sergeant is helping young Reservists find the balance between their civilian careers and their Reserve duty.

"The civilian job is the actual job that pays the bills while the Reserves is something they do because they want to serve their country," Perez said. "As their first sergeant, I have to monitor them to make sure they are balancing their civilian life and their Army life. I also work as a liaison with their employers. We get a lot of support from agencies in the Birmingham area and from Redstone Arsenal's Army Community Service."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16