Story by Sgt. Kimberly K. Menzies, 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command Public Affairs
FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii-U.S. Army Col. Eric L. Sanchez, commander of the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, was authorized and directed to wear the one-star insignia of a brigadier general during a frocking ceremony, Aug. 1, 2014, held at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.
Sanchez graduated from Santa Fe High School and enlisted into the U.S. Army National Guard while attending college. It was while enrolled in college that Sanchez decided to become a commissioned officer.
"I started out enlisted," shares Sanchez. "I really enjoyed what I was doing but I wanted more of a personal challenge--My dad was a logistics officer in the National Guard--so talking to him and seeing what opportunities were out there, I made the decision to join the ROTC program when I was in college."
Though Sanchez was commissioned after becoming a distinguished military graduate of New Mexico State University, his journey was not only fostered by his personal relationship with his father, William Sanchez, but also through the encouragement of several different leaders throughout his career.
"Different individuals saw that I had potential and encouraged me to go out and do great things," said Sanchez. "Early on in my career, Sgt. Hernandez, an orderly room [noncommissioned officer], took me under his wing and was one of the first to encourage me. He told me that I had the potential to do great things--I was in college, getting ready to get my degree--He was one of the first influences at the E5 level when I was a young Soldier."
"There was also my first platoon sergeant, Sgt. First Class Inocencio, who was a great platoon sergeant to have as a brand new second lieutenant," explains Sanchez. "He had been in the Army for 19 years and he knew all the ins and outs--the things that would make a lieutenant successful--the things to stay away from or to do better. He was a great influence on me as a mentor from the NCO side."
It was not only noncommissioned officers; there were several commissioned officers who helped Sanchez along the path to where he is today.
Sanchez deployed to Desert Shield/Desert Storm with Capt. Peter Loebs, his second battery commander.
"That was a critical point in my career because I was in a battalion where we were considered the worst," Sanchez recalls. "He came in and turned us around to where we were the best. Watching that leadership and what he was able to do to turn us around was an influence on me. Some of the things he did in the unit, I do still to this day."
"Also, Brig. Gen. Underhill, who is now retired, and Maj. Gen. Dickinson, my two brigade commanders who I served under during my battalion command, were great role models and vital to my success in command."
Even with great leadership standing behind and encouraging Sanchez on his path, he never made it his one goal to achieve the rank of general officer.
"I never had a dream of being a general officer," expresses Sanchez. "My goal was to become a battalion commander, and anything after that was gravy. I am fortunate to have been able to achieve that."
"It was a surprise to me to be selected to brigade command, and then to be selected to be a [general officer] and to be sent to be part of the best air and missile defense in the world located in Hawaii was momentous."
"The reason I was able to reach these heights was because I did not try to achieve it too early," he said. "It came because I was out there doing what needed to be done--being a team player and focusing on completing the mission. I just tried to be the expert at whatever task the Army gave me."
Though Sanchez just recently assumed command of the 94th AAMDC in late June, he was one of the Soldiers who helped establish the unit in 2005.
Sanchez emphasizes teamwork, jointness and continued partnerships which was demonstrated by the attendance of Gen. Herbert J. "Hawk" Carlisle, commander of Pacific Air Force, and Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of U.S. Army Pacific.
"My philosophy is very much about teamwork and being a team player," explains Sanchez. "I plan to continue to permeate that throughout the whole organization so that everyone has that spirit of teamwork. It is very simple --teamwork and working well with others --but I have used it since being a second lieutenant and it has been very effective, and has played a very large role in the success of my career."
"The concept of teamwork has not only been part of my military career but also something my Family has fostered," he shares. "I would never have been able to reach this point in my career if not for the love and support of my wife, Teresa, and my two daughters, Marilissa and Sophia. I know the sacrifices they have each made over the years through numerous moves and deployments and I am, and always will be, grateful to them for standing by my side."
Sanchez also recognizes the importance of the 94th AAMDC's mission as the first line of defense, and encourages all his Soldiers to focus forward.
"The task that I have been given is to shape, posture, and ready our air and missile defense," explains Sanchez. "If we had to fight tonight, we would be ready to do that effectively."