FORT BLISS, Texas. -- 1st Lt. Vicente Trejo said he believes he has the right skill set to lead Soldiers inside an Army that is continually evolving.

As a first lieutenant just two years into his Army career, Trejo encourages his air and missile defense Soldiers at Fort Bliss to continually exercise their basic Soldier skills. In early March, he and his platoon participated in the Roving Sands exercise here, where they could practice some of those techniques.

Trejo started his military career enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he deployed twice to Iraq. In the Marine Corps, it is said that every Marine is a rifleman. That's in addition to whatever military specialty a Marine has. So Marines have two jobs, in a sense. Trejo said he wanted to impart that mentality on his Soldiers. Every one of his Soldiers must be an expert at air and missile defense, of course -- that's their MOS. But he also wants them to be equally adept at all their most basic Soldier tasks as well.

"(As) a Marine ... we were always trained to be (versatile), no matter what we do, both land, sea (and) air. I think that the Army's moving towards that," said Trejo, a headquarters and headquarters battery executive officer assigned to the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade. "Every unit needs to be autonomous. Every unit needs to be able to do basic Army things by themselves without the need of having to bring an infantry unit or civilian contractors or anything like that."

Roving Sands was the perfect opportunity to practice that. At the exercise, Trejo's air defense Soldiers practiced on skills they used less frequently, such as setting up a perimeter and entry access points, setting up tents and distributing meals.

"So in the Marines everyone is considered a basic rifleman first," Trejo said. "No matter what your MOS is, you're always considered a basic rifleman, so you need to be able to know all the fundamentals of an infantryman and be able to apply them. When I joined the Army it's a little bit of a difference because it seems to be MOS specific.

"I've kind of tried to imbue in my Soldiers here: yes, of course you're a 14 tango (Patriot launcher or maintainer) in the air defense world, but I also need you to be a Soldier first, as far as just general ground infantry tactics."

As a convoy commander during Roving Sands, Trejo was responsible for vehicle preparation and monitoring loads, and also for a team that cleared sites for any harmful biological or hazardous materials.

As Trejo and his Soldiers entered the final days of the Roving Sands exercise in the borderlands of West Texas, he said he was encouraged by the skill progression of his troops. Standing in his helmet and protective vest at Fort Bliss' training grounds, Trejo talked about how his air and missile defense Soldiers worked on their site security while building and setting up perimeters and fence lines. They also used their intel to track potential enemies as they would in an actual deployed environment.

"I think sometimes in Patriot units we tend to put (basic Soldier skills) aside because everybody wants to concentrate on Patriot stuff," Trejo said. "These are some of the basics, like being able to pull security, like being able to shoot, move and communicate. Soldier things that we tend to put aside in the Patriot world. Roving Sands forced us all to be able to do it -- have to re-learn and apply those things that we sometimes take for granted."

A DIFFERENT PATH

In 2003, Trejo graduated from high school. He initially had aspirations of becoming the first member of his immigrant family to get a college education. But when the U.S. entered Iraq that summer, it changed his plans.

"I wanted to do something that mattered," Trejo said.

Trejo chose to join the Marine Corps and was initially assigned to Camp Pendleton, California. He later deployed as an aviation operations specialist with the Marines, where he worked on the AH-1 Cobra and UH-1Y Venom aircraft. After five years in the Marine Corps, Trejo earned his bachelor's degree in forensic science from Georgia Tech. He went on to earn a master's in public administration before commissioning into the Army in 2016.

Trejo's parents came to the United States from the central Mexican province of Guanajuato in 1978. President Reagan later granted them amnesty. Trejo said he understood the importance of hard work coming from a lower income background in Hendersonville, South Carolina. He has passed that work ethic onto his brother, Johnny.

Johnny Trejo will commission into the Army this spring as a signal officer, and Vicente plans to give his brother his commission oath.

Trejo said the enthusiasm, camaraderie and skills of his unit grew during the course of the Roving Sands exercise. By the time they reached the final days of the exercise, the Soldiers were operating at a more efficient level from when they started.

"We jumped again and it got a little bit better. This site has been proficient," Trejo said. "These guys know what they're doing. We don't have to tell them anymore. They know exactly what they need to do when they land onsite. So it's making them better Soldiers and better air defenders."