U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground, Utah--Perry Sosa is extremely proud of his of Hispanic American heritage and believes it has been a perfect background for a successful career at U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground. Dugway's primary mission is to provide testing and evaluation in support of our nation's chemical and biological defense programs.
As the Chief of the Operations Division, Sosa oversees all of the testing, training and construction at the West Desert Test Center. This is no small task since Dugway is a U.S. Army Major Range and Test Facility Base with nearly 800,000 acres of testing area, or about the size of Rhode Island.
At a very young age Sosa knew that being half Hispanic meant he would "walk a fine line" in life.
"I had heard the term half breed quite young," Sosa said. "But my paternal grandparents were born in Mexico, and I am 50 percent Hispanic, the other half is Danish and a mixture of other national origins."
Sosa is a tall, broad-shouldered man who has a comfortable confidence in himself. It shows in the way he walks, conducts meetings and oversees a diverse enterprise of specialists who support the chemical and biological test and evaluation mission at Dugway.
In meetings, he often sits quietly, listening closely to questions for which he provides thoughtful, measured and thorough answers. His laser-like attention for detail builds confidence and loyalty in those who serve with him.
It is Sosa's job to ensure Dugway can safely sustain and secure the test center. He oversees the surety guard force, the logistics branch, and the Environmental Technology Office. The latter prepares all the environmental assessments, analysis and documents for all Army actions that take place on the test ranges.
"We work diligently for safe operations and to take good care of our ranges and airspace, and to be sure the materiel and the people who operate them are good stewards of the environment." Sosa stated.
One of his favorite memories of growing up was of his paternal grandmother scolding the antics of the cousins outside of her kitchen at her home in California.
"Little boys sometimes do naughty things. We had done something that upset her and we must have had a dumb-founded look on our faces until she took the kitchen broom to us," he said with a chuckle as he recalled that half of her grandchildren, including himself, didn't speak Spanish.
Not understanding what his grandmother wanted to say to him over the years, was a regret he remedied in time to have several long and happy conversations in Spanish with her before she died. A wish his grandmother had always hoped would happen.
Sosa credits his early years as a real advantage. As young man, he already determined that other people's concepts of his background would not stand in the way of attaining his dreams and goals.
"I greatly admire my grandmother for the sacrifices she made for her family. She worked hard in the orchards, strawberry and onion fields and on fruit assembly lines skinning peaches or cleaning the fruit of a large food distributer in California. She did this to help support her family. She was tired after those 10-hour days of picking fruit or standing alongside the conveyer belts."
Because of his grandmother's example, he learned that if he was willing to work hard at difficult tasks, over time the seeds of his labors would bear good fruit. But he also knew challenges would be part of the process.
"She always talked about the importance of a good education and the need for all of us to advance in our society. It is important to me to honor her counsel," he said.
Sosa strove for new challenges, performing a number of short duty assignments with the U.S. Army Reserves, following the attacks on the twin towers on September 11, 2001.
For more than a year and a half, Sosa was assigned in Salt Lake City to assist the 98th Regional Support Command and the 91st Training Division to help monitor Reserve units as they mobilized in support of Operation Iraq Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom at Fort Carson, Fort McCoy and Fort Lewis.
With just six months off at his regular job, Sosa received a second active duty call, which assigned him to the Headquarters at U.S. Central Command, Joint Chiefs of Staff Coalition Coordination Center, where Sosa helped propose strategies, plans, policies, and recommendations as part of the staff. From there, he was sent to serve at the Forward Command Center in Qatar for 70 days.
Over the course of time, the company he had worked for had been bought by another business and most of the managers and supervisors he had known from the beginning had moved on. It's not hard to imagine that Sosa too felt the need look for broader opportunities that better suited the experience he gained while serving in the Reserves.
A friend in the Reserves, who knew his capability for taking on hard tasks and his ability to work with people, complete tasks, and take on difficult projects, suggested that he summit a resume to Dugway. "So here I am in 2016, the result of submitting a resume in 2006," Sosa explained.
"I really love what I do here," he said. "The best part is interacting with the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guard and our nation's first responders. I not only get the see the fruits of our labors pay dividends, but I see the insights of our subject-matter experts as well."
Sosa believes it's important to pay good fortune forward. He has served as mentor to other Hispanic Americans and number of Soldiers over the years. He feels an obligation to encourage them to pursue their educations.
"Never say no to opportunities to grow your skill set," he counsels.
Sosa also encourages his daughter Victoria along the same path. "I remind her of her great-grandmother's sacrifices, and that we both stand tall on her shoulders."