By Sgt. 1st Class Michael BehlinApril 23, 2018
FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii - "Teach, coach, mentor Soldiers every day and only when you have to, use words," said Command Sgt. Maj. Jacinto Garza, the 8th Theater Sustainment Command senior enlisted leader.
These words, by Garza himself, are what he lives by daily as the senior enlisted noncommissioned officer at the Pacific's senior Army logistics command. Overseeing a command of more than 2,000 Soldiers and civilians providing logistics and sustaining combat readiness for a region spanning 9,000 miles and including 36 countries, few would ever imagine that finding the right words could have at one time been a problem. But it turns out that the 21-year Soldier overcame many obstacles along the path to be the positive example he is for Soldiers in the Pacific today.
His beliefs are that Soldiers are developed from the ground up, but that it takes strong, capable leaders to mold and nurture them to be successful. He learned that through the love, support and even challenges growing up in Jasper, Texas.
Born in Floresville, Texas, Garza's parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico in the early 1970s with hopes to provide a better life for their family. Garza said his step-father often referred to the U.S. as the "Promise Land," a place where everyone has the opportunity to succeed. His step-father's beliefs set the foundation for his joining the Army in 1996.
"Joining the Army was a way to give back to a country that's given my parents and me so many opportunities," he said.
As a child, Garza dreamed of one day playing baseball in the major leagues. A die-hard Houston Astros and Dallas Cowboys fan, he enjoyed spending his free time sitting next to his little black radio, listening to their games. When he wasn't listening, a young Garza performed multiple jobs that helped him learn about personal responsibility, including cutting grass for seniors, bagging ice at the local JOC Stop and cooking at the local Tamollies Mexican Restaurant. These jobs provided a little extra income along with teaching valuable lessons on work ethic, punctuality and accountability.
His hometown's camaraderie with sports fueled his competitive fire and led to him playing baseball at Jasper High School and a few semesters of college at Wharton County Community College. Nicknamed "Señor Smoke" for his ability to throw his fastball in the lower to mid-80 mph range, he played both pitcher and outfielder for the Jasper Bulldogs for three seasons.
"During the high school baseball season, the community seemed to come on one accord with one mission of becoming a state champion. I really enjoyed the cohesiveness of the community," he said.
Garza kept that athletic drive going in a different, teaching direction when he later completed his Baccalaureate degree in Sports and Health Sciences with a concentration in Sports Management from American Military University.
The friendship and camaraderie amongst members of Garza's community directly mirrored that which he found amongst Soldiers of the U.S. Army.
"It had a real feeling of family, or a brother, sisterhood," he said.
That dedication and loyalty amongst members of such a special community made Garza want to become part of a larger team. The Army team offered him an opportunity to give back to a country that provided a better life for his family.
Admittedly an introvert early in life, Garza only spoke Spanish which led to him being uncomfortable speaking at times. In school, he said he often felt behind the learning curve and was "not confident to speak up because I was still learning the language." He described these times as extremely tough. His parents were primarily Spanish speakers, which prevented him from being able to practice English as much as he would have liked.
His mentoring started early on in an unexpected way, in that Garza and his older sister would come home from school each day and teach his parents English. Their lessons paid off, enabling his parents to successfully go through the naturalization process, passing the hundred-question test and applying for American citizenship. His parents would end up becoming American citizens with the support and help of Garza and his siblings. Up until this point, Garza and his older sister were interpreters for every outside negotiation that their parents had. This forced him to learn English in order to articulate his parent's concerns.
Twenty-one years later, with Garza now serving as the top noncommissioned officer of the 8th Theater Sustainment Command, he believes in taking care of Soldiers the way his family and community took care of him. Grateful for the success he's had throughout the years, Garza's leadership philosophy centers on making sure Soldiers have the necessary knowledge, training and equipment to achieve their mission.
"I couldn't do anything without the support and example that my mother provided me. My mother loved us but was tough on us kids. I watched her work two, sometimes three jobs to make sure my sisters and I had the things that we needed. I use her example as a means of personally defining the phrase of taking care of Soldiers."
"To me, it means making sure Soldiers are mentally and physically fit; making sure Soldiers are tactically and technically proficient; making sure Soldiers are trained on, can account for, and maintain their military equipment," said Garza. "Taking care of Soldiers is ensuring they can survive under any condition, in any circumstance in the crucible of ground combat."
Garza's leadership philosophy focuses heavily on the importance of building strong Sergeants. "If we build strong Sergeants, then we will have strong Soldiers and Soldiers is defined as Commissioned, Warrant, Non-commissioned officers and junior enlisted Soldiers. This melding together forms an Army that's lethal. But it starts with the backbone of the Army being the backbone of the organization. This is done through education and tough, realistic training."
"When you have a role in ensuring Soldiers can deploy at a moment's notice to fight and win our nation's wars, combined with a safe return home, that's a lot of responsibility. I don't think I would be as empathetic and dedicated to that cause if I didn't have such positive, selfless role models looking out for me," he said.
While few will ever reach the rank and position of a two-star level command sergeant major , Garza admits there's more he would like to accomplish in his career. Though successful, he wants his Soldiers to know he's human too, and like most has had times where he's considered finding a new career over the years.
"Every time I would reach my reenlistment window, I would be given the chance to broaden my career with opportunities like becoming a drill sergeant or first sergeant," he said. "It lured me in because I had a passion to train Soldiers and to become a better leader."
"I believe that much of what Soldiers look for in leaders can be seen in plain sight. They should be able to see what they want to be as leaders and emulate what they believe to be good examples," he said. As a leader of Soldiers from 167 different occupational specialties and supporting the Army' largest theater of operations, it's no easy task to live up to the expectations he set for himself.
When he's not Soldiering, you can often find him at the gym or in the library reading. Garza finds at least 30 minutes of everyday to read self-help or educational material. "Learning something new every day is a must," he said.
His career has taken him from Jasper, TX to the Republic of Korea, Iraq, and multiple tours at military installations across the continental United States. He considers assisting in building the cohesiveness amongst the sustainment community at Fort Carson, CO, to be one of his biggest accomplishments. Serving there as the as brigade command sergeant major, 4th Infantry Division's Sustainment Brigade, Garza described the community as having one mission, one focus, all on one accord.
Happy to continue serving in the Army during perhaps some of its more complex, uncertain times, Garza recalls the best advice he's every received, to "be humble, be flexible and be willing to adapt to any environment."
"The Army will continue to change. It helps because things in life change all of the time," he said. "The flexibility to adapt to change has helped me throughout my career. The willingness to try new things is a strong point that Garza feels helps him with that flexibility.
"Everything hasn't been created, so why not assist in generating new ways to fix problems," said Garza.