OTF Soldier Story for November 2, 2009 - Master Sgt. Gabriel Fierro Sr.
Current Unit: 108th Training Command (Initial Entry Training)
Current Position: Human Resource Manager
Component: Army Reserve
Current Location: Charlotte, N.C.
Hometown: San Diego, Calif.
Years of Service: 31
Although the Apache Indian tribes may be known for their historical conflicts with the Mexicans throughout much of the 17th and 18th centuries, Master Sgt. Gabriel Fierro Sr. is proud of his blended heritage. Tracing his family's roots back to the Apache and Aztec Indian tribes, his parents' ancestors set foot on American soil long before the creation of our nation and the Army. His father, who is part Apache Indian and part Mexican, and mother, who is part Mayan and part Aztec Indian, raised Fierro to be proud of his heritage and devoted to the land in which he lived. The Soldier, who is the fourth family member to serve in the Army, uses his blended background to help others, including the younger enlisted Soldiers in his unit and his own children.
The self-proclaimed "cultural chameleon" has been able to use his blended American Indian and Hispanic heritages to better relate with both cultural groups, speaking Spanish to Hispanic Soldiers and discussing the warrior ethos of the Indian tribes with American Indian Soldiers. However, regardless of a Soldier's heritage, Fierro is committed to helping them prepare for life within the Army. In addition to mentoring and leading the Soldiers in his unit, Fierro is also a dedicated father, striving to instill Army Strong values in his children.
"Everything I teach my Soldiers, I teach my kids, and vice versa. I want everyone to be treated for who they are, not what they look like," said Fierro.
Drawing on his own blended cultural heritage, Fierro emphasizes to both his fellow Soldiers and children the importance of being open-minded and accepting, as well as teaching them to base opinions on others' actions, not their race or heritage.
When Fierro enlisted in the Army in the late 1970s, he was following in not only a tradition of excellence for Noncommissioned Officers (NCO), but his family as well. With Fierro's father and two brothers serving as NCOs in the Army, he joined right out of high school, thinking he would serve for a few years before starting a civilian career. However, he has continued to serve, knowing that his Army service provides him with a meaningful career and enables him to do what he loves most - helping others.
An extension of Fierro's commitment to helping others, the Soldier deployed to Balad, Iraq in 2007-2008 to serve as a Civil Affairs Team Sergeant. While deployed, the 431st Civil Affairs Team successfully completed more than 130 combat missions working with local provincial government to improve employment options for Iraqis. One of the most notable projects during his deployment was helping to institute the first micro-loan program in the Salah- Ah-Din region, to create economic stability. For meritorious service throughout his deployment, the NCO was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. True to his commitment as a leader and mentor, Fierro took it upon himself to maintain the morale of the unit, frequently sharing care packages with other Soldiers who didn't have an active support system at home.
Fierro, along with his wife and children, currently lives in Charlotte, N.C., where he serves with the 108th Training Command (Initial Entry Training) as a Human Resources Manager. In that role, he works to prepare Soldiers for mobilization, as well as help them balance their roles as citizens and Soldiers. With more than three decades of Army service, the Reservist has plans to retire in the fall of 2010, and feels confident that the Army has provided him with skills transferable to many civilian occupations.