Capt. Marissa Mantanona (right) presents Company B's guidon to 1st Sgt. Mildred Lara Gonzales (left), representing the transfer of responsibiilty and care of the company's troops.

1st Sgt. Mildred Lara Gonzales takes the lead for U.S. Army South HQ's sustainment company

First Sgt. Mildred Lara Gonzales has served as an active-duty Soldier for 13 years and for one year in the Army Reserves as a paralegal. She was born in Honduras, lived in Boston and eventually moved to Tampa Bay, Fla., where she enlisted in January 1997 after serving in the ROTC Battalion out of Valencia Community College. Lara Gonzales has served with the 25th Infantry Division, Hawaii; 23rd Chemical Battalion, Korea; at Fort Jackson, S.C., as a drill sergeant; and she has deployed twice with the 1st Cavalry Division. In August, she became the first sergeant for the Intelligence and Sustainment Company of Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, U.S. Army South, at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

Why did you join the Army?
I was going through ROTC at Florida, and I enjoyed all of the stuff I was doing. I thought it would be interesting to see what it was like full time. When I joined, I didn't have any aspect of staying in for 20 years. I joined to see what it was about, and I liked it a lot.

What role have NCOs played in your development as a Soldier and NCO?
NCOs have played a major role, from the time I was a private. I remember being an E-2 and one of my NCOs was a staff sergeant. He took the time to make sure that I was well-trained in my Soldier skills. He took an interest in my career and ensured that I was going to jobs that would make me a well-rounded NCO. NCOs have played a major role in almost every aspect in my military career.

What makes a good NCO?
What makes a good NCO is someone who is not just interested in themselves and their well being, but who cares about everyone around them. They don't have to be your Soldier [for you] to influence them.

How do you set the example?
When it comes to my Soldiers, I think the example to set is that you can do the same thing. If my Soldiers are out there working hard, I go out there and help out. As a senior NCO, I'm out there. Regardless of my rank, I'm out there doing PT with them; I'm out there firing my weapon with them. Training is required of all of us.

What changes would you like to see Armywide?
I would like to see senior NCOs teaching Soldiers like they taught me. Each one, teach one; grab a junior Soldier and take care of them throughout their military career. Whether they're doing great things or not, you still strive to teach them "what right looks like."

What advice do you have for junior NCOs?
My advice would be to always work hard to strive hard to be a good NCO to help the people around you. If NCOs work together, we can definitely make this a better Army.

How do you see NCOs rising to the challenge in your organization?
There are great NCOs within my organization and we all band together to make the mission happen and to still take care of each individual Soldier within our organization. They do a great job balancing both the needs of the Soldier and the needs of the Army.

How does your current job impact the Army?
In the first sergeant position, the impact I feel I'm making is that I'm able to reach out and touch Soldiers in all MOSs, not just within the legal community. I'm actually able to sit down and mentor, coach and train them to be better NCOs. I would like to leave knowing I was able to mentor all the NCOs, officers and junior Soldiers alike.

Page last updated Wed January 11th, 2012 at 00:00