ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Carlos Vazquez has always known that in one capacity or another, he would spend his life serving others.
The 40-year-old staff sergeant is the chaplain assistant to the command chaplain of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronic Command. A native of the tough and rugged South Bronx, Vazquez said he grew up wanting to become a New York City police officer.
He amended that goal after deciding to join the Army when friends who entered the service suggested he join the Military Police. Looking for the right feel, Vazquez still hesitated.
"I wanted to look further and heard about this MOS," he said. "I didn't know much about it, I've just always wanted to serve and help others."
With more than 17 years of service, Vazquez is happy with his choice. He said he's learned over the years how chaplain assistants can make a difference in the lives of fellow Soldiers on and off the battlefield.
Vazquez works for CECOM Chaplain Lt. Col. Young Kim and coordinates regularly with CECOM Command Sgt. Maj. William Bruns.
"That is a great advantage," he said. "As a chaplain assistant, I have a direct line to the command sergeant major where as other Soldiers have to go through their chains of command. This allows me to be the voice for Soldiers who don't have the courage to speak for themselves."
Noting that he and Kim work as a team, he added that the information they receive, while not classified, is considered "privileged communication."
"It can be detrimental to everything we represent if we don't take that seriously," he said.
Vazquez serves and coordinates religious support (RS) for more than 11,000 Soldiers, family members and government civilians world- wide. He advises the command on all chaplain assistant matters and RS operations, and is responsible for RS to Tobyhanna Army Depot, Pennsylvania; the Information Systems Engineering Command in Fort Huachuca, Arizona; the Central Technical Support Facility (CSTF) at Fort Hood, Texas and at other sites.
While he is working on a homeland security degree to support his post-military career goals after retirement, Vazquez is looking forward to his next assignment as the Chaplain Assistant Operations Non-Commissioned Officer for the U.S. Army North Command.
Vazquez has served at battalion and brigade levels at Fort Riley, Kansas and through two deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. His said that while all of his assignments have held their specific challenges he was most challenged when shortly after returning from a 2005-2006 deployment to Iraq he received orders for an unaccompanied assignment to the 2nd Infantry Division in South Korea
"I was still in the process of processing that first deployment in my mind, but I had a duty to continue to mentor and counsel other Soldiers and that took precedence," he said. "I simply had to learn to apply the things I tell other folks. It was pretty difficult."
Some of the advantages to his vocation are that "we touch every denomination," he added. "Every chaplain has their own preference as to how to do certain things and you make adjustments just as you would for any superior."
The greatest joy is mentoring younger assistants, he said.
"My preference is sharing my experiences. My responsibility is as a sustainer. Over the years I acquired a lot of mentors who shared their experiences and I learned from them," he said.
"My greatest pleasure is knowing I can speak up for the little man; that I can provide help when needed for the lowest ranking up. We have a greater impact than most people realize and I take pride in that."