Native Spanish-speaker refused to quit
July 7, 2011
FORT JACKSON, S.C. --
Staff Sgt. Jose Pacheco
Company A, 120th Adjutant General Battalion (Reception)
Military occupational specialty
42A, human resources specialist
Salinas, Puerto Rico
As a drill sergeant with the 120th Adjutant General Battalion (Reception), Staff Sgt. Jose Pacheco’s job is to introduce new Soldiers to life in the Army. Eight years ago, Pacheco was one of those Soldiers, going through inprocessing at Fort Sill, Okla. Unlike most of his peers, though, the Puerto Rico native spoke only Spanish.
“It was a challenge,” Pacheco said. “It was hard, but I said, ‘I’m never going to quit.’”
The Army sent Pacheco to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas to attend the Defense Language Institute English Language Center, where he spent six months learning English.
Pacheco said he worked hard to overcome the language barrier and spent a lot of his free time using online tools to improve his English. While he was stationed in Hawaii, he met a young Soldier who was in a similar situation.
“He came straight from AIT to Hawaii,” Pacheco said. “He said, ‘I think I’m not going to make it. It’s too hard.’ So I explained to him that it was the same way for me, (and told him), ‘You have to work hard.’”
Pacheco said that he regards helping Soldiers as an important part of his duty. He said he always makes sure his Soldiers have everything they need.
“I put the Soldiers before myself,” he said. “I never go home until I check on every single (Soldier).”
His desire to help people also plays a big role in his personal life. During his time off, he goes on “patrols” with a friend to help stranded motorists.
“It happened to me before,” he said. “You’re (stranded) on the road, and people just go by and don’t stop. I almost got hit by a car trying to change my tire.”
Pacheco said he enjoys being in the Army and hopes to stay in for at least 20 years.
“You always meet new people,” he said. “You have the opportunity to teach them or learn from them.”