KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Erica Robedo said she learned the meaning of hard work at a very young age.
Robedo, assigned to Company G, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, said she witnessed her parents tirelessly earn money by picking onions, grapefruit, and oranges in order to support the Family.
"I would see how tired my parents looked after a long day of picking and all I wanted to do was help them," said Robedo, a Hidalgo, Texas native. "They would always tell me to never give up even when things might seem hard, especially if it's something you strive for in life, and I saw that in them every day out in those fields."
However, Robedo's father didn't always work picking fruits and vegetables.
Her father, who was the first generation in her Family to be born in the United States, was drafted to serve in the Vietnam War.
"I grew up hearing stories about his time in the military and how much support they gave him," said Robedo. "He would tell me about all the people he got to meet and how proud he was of being American and I wanted to experience that for myself."
With the words of wisdom to accomplish her goals and her father's patriotism for the United States, Robedo said her interest in the military grew.
Yet regardless of all the positive stories about the military that her father told, Robedo said her Family was still skeptical about her decision to enlist in the U.S. Army after high school.
"They hated the idea of me leaving home and being away from family," she said. "I grew up in a very Hispanic community. I mean I learned Spanish before English, so the idea of me leaving was hard for them especially with me being the youngest in the Family and a female."
Robedo decided to follow her dream and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2010.
When it came time to choose her military occupational specialty, it was her father that she thought about when making the decision.
"When my dad left the military he started fixing cars and doing a lot of mechanic-like work, I liked helping him when I could," she said. "The recruiter offered me a lot of different jobs but all I wanted to be was a mechanic just like my dad."
Eight years later, Robedo is now a squad leader and one of the three NCOs who lead the recovery team at Kandahar Airfield.
"Being in charge of a recovery team is no easy task, you have to be competent in your job and think quickly on your feet," said Staff Sgt. Travis Broussard, maintenance control noncommissioned officer for Company G, 1st Bn., 12th Inf. Reg. "We expect a lot out of (Robedo) but she never lets us down."
As part of the recovery team, Robedo and her team have to leave the safety of the airfield and recover vehicles damaged during missions around the ground defense area of the Kandahar Province.
"None of the situations we encounter when conducting recovery missions outside of the wire are perfect," said Broussard. "It can be chaotic... vehicles are either blown up or stuck in a ditch so it's extremely important to know your job out there."
As the only female NCO in the maintenance section for the company, Robedo said she wants be a good role model for all Soldiers and show them that nothing can stop you from achieving your goals.
"When I'm out on a recovery mission and I have all my gear on and I'm sweating and tired and stressed out because nothing is going as planned, I think to myself 'I can't quit now, people are counting on me and looking at me for guidance,'" said Robedo.
That motivation and drive that Robedo demonstrates on a daily basis is what makes her a great NCO, leader and mentor, according to Broussard, who has worked with Robedo for two years.
"I have personally never seen a female doing and leading recovery missions and it's awesome to see her doing it and doing it right," said Broussard. "She leads from the front and always pushes her Soldiers to improve themselves. We are lucky to have her in our section."