The Army has provided Sgt. First Class Lorenzo Dukes with plenty of opportunities for job-related and travel experiences in his 16-year career. But, more than anything else, he appreciates the experiences he's had with leading Army teams.

"I've enjoyed my personal growth and the opportunities to do various jobs," he said.
"I've been to a lot of fun and interesting places. I've met some great people. I've established life-changing friendships. I've had the chance to learn from great leaders. I've had the opportunity to train, mentor and develop civilians into Soldiers, and also Soldiers into leaders."

He is getting plenty of opportunity these days to put his leadership training into practice. Dukes is the Aviation Command Logistic Center's non-commissioned officer in charge at Fort Rucker's Hanchey Army Airfield, where he manages an AMCOM command team of eight civilians and nine non-commissioned officers who conduct 24-hour, seven-days-a-week contract oversight of 950 contractor employees who support the training mission by providing well-maintained Delta and Echo model of the AH-64 Apache helicopters.

Dukes has implemented the leadership lessons he has learned from the non-commissioned officers who have led and mentored him in his own development as a leader, relying on those lessons in his current assignment as well as a in his roles as father, volunteer coach and mentor to young people.

"I do a lot of volunteer community work and outreach work," Dukes said. "I do all this because I didn't have that when I was growing up and I realize there's such a need for that with our young people. The Army has given me great experiences in life and has provided me with mentors who have helped me get where I am today."

Whether at work or in his personal roles, Dukes views effective leadership from the perspective of those who are led.

"As a leader, you have to be humble, fair and impartial," he said. "You have to understand that decisions you make will impact the lives of so many others. They don't just impact you.

"I don't want to be a one-way leader. That limits my abilities, and limits my Soldiers opportunities. I have to be sensitive to the different lifestyles, upbringings and backgrounds of my Soldiers, and I have to enforce standards across the board, regardless of what my beliefs are."

Dukes enlisted in the Army in search of the very mentors who have shaped his life.

"I needed a better form of guidance and to take my life in a different direction. I was unsure of what I wanted to do with my life, so I turned to the U.S. Army," he said.

As a 15J, OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter mechanic, Dukes was trained to work on the OH-58D's armament, electrical and avionics systems.

"I chose this job mainly because of the impressive recruitment video that highlighted my duties. But, I also chose it because I have always been good at figuring things out, so troubleshooting faults seemed like a good challenge for me," Dukes said.

"I love the camaraderie and Cavalry mentality of the OH-58D community. There has always been a strong sense of pride with an underdog mentality by doing this job. Being a 15J, it drove me to excel as a mechanic and Soldier."

His military occupational specialty led to assignments at Fort Carson, Colorado; Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii; Fort Jackson, South Carolina; and currently Fort Rucker. His deployments include Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003-04 and 2005-06 with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment from Fort Carson; and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2007 and South Korea in 2015 with the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade from Wheeler AAF. Besides working in his MOS, Dukes served as a drill sergeant in 2009-2011 and as a Criminal Investigation Command special agent from 2011-2013, both while at Fort Jackson.

Stationed at Fort Rucker since May 2016, Dukes is in a time of transition, moving out of his MOS because the Army no longer is using OH-58D helicopters and looking forward to more leadership opportunities within Army Aviation.

Dukes' leadership skills were evident in the way he has approached each promotion in his career. He has been motivated by the ability to show other Soldiers the hard work and dedication required to move through the Soldier ranks.

"I was never the type to believe that complacency was a standard. At my 12-year mark, I had obtained the rank of sergeant first class. I literally out-ranked every squad Leader and section sergeant who led me as a brand new private in 2001," he said.

"Now that I am at 16 years, I have the opportunity to exceed every single leader I've ever had within the 15J community by being promoted to the next rank. I have had some bumps in the road along my way, but I always felt determined to overcome them. I find motivation in everything."

Being a successful Soldier in any career field takes discipline and maturity.

"Discipline allows you to know when to talk and when to be silent; when to sit and when to stand; when to accept right from wrong; when to stand up for your Soldiers and when to follow orders; how to prioritize your obligations, and so on. You also have to be mature enough to accept the results of your actions and learn as you go," he said.

Soldiering is hard work, requiring long days and times of uncertainty. But it's worth it, Dukes said, to those who want to be part of something that is greater than themselves.

"You have to start your career with goals, and strive to accomplish them regardless of the situations you face. You will have to be resilient and realize that tomorrow is another day and opportunity," he said.

"There are unlimited resources at your disposal. People will view you as a hero and expect great things from you at all times. You are a representation of our nation's past, present and future. You represent your family's name. Be patient. Think of the bigger picture."

Dukes is from Chicago. He and his wife, Shirley, have four children ages two to 13, and two family puppies. He volunteers as a basketball coach for his children's teams and mentors youth in the local middle school.

"My wife and children look up to me, and they need me to be the leader of the household, to set the right example and make the best decisions for everyone," Dukes said. "Being a leader in my career field is no different from my responsibilities as a husband and a father."