FORT KNOX, Ky. -- When he was selected for recruiting duty in 1997, he never imagined the impact it would have on the Army or himself.
Gustavo Reina joined the Army in April 1991 as a unit supply specialist. He was looking for something different, a little excitement and opportunities for training and education; and the Army delivered.
Reina ended up serving a full career where he received opportunities to grow and develop in ways he never expected; and eight years after retiring as a sergeant first class, he found himself standing next to Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sgt. David Bellavia, someone he had personally brought into the Army.
Reina, 49, met Bellavia during the spring of 1999 and was immediately impressed with his intelligence and charisma, so it came as no surprise when Bellavia was first nominated for the award.
"Right from the get-go, Staff Sgt. Bellavia impressed me as a young man with a very good head on his shoulders," Reina said. "He was highly intelligent, charismatic and an overall good guy. I remember telling him that one day he'd do great things in his life. A Medal of Honor was not what I had in mind at that time, but I was not at all surprised when I found out that through his heroic actions he had been nominated."
Bellavia received his Medal of Honor award June 25, 2019. Reflecting on the experience, Reina recounted his initial reaction to his selection for recruiting duty and how the experience changed both his life and Bellavia's.
"I had not wished to be a recruiter at first and was slightly disappointed when selected for the recruiting assignment," Reina said. "As I've always believed, however, that things in life happen for a reason, I figured that recruiting duty was where God wanted me to be."
Reina had wanted to become a drill sergeant and turned down a recruiting assignment twice, but in the end, the need for recruiters was larger and he reported for recruiting duty in December 1997. With that in mind, Reina put forth all his effort into doing the best job he possibly could for all of his applicants and learned many lessons along the way. A large one being to always perform his duties with "absolute integrity and with the highest standards of professional behavior."
"As representatives of the best Army in the world, we are the first ambassadors that people would see in the streets of their hometown and in their schools," Reina said. "This has served me well in my personal and professional lives after retiring from the Army. To this day, I strive to always do my best to represent myself, my employer, and any organizations that I am a part of with the utmost ethical behavior."
Recruiting duty grew Reina as an individual. Naturally shy, he was pushed out of his comfort zone providing public presentations to classrooms full of people. As he got better, he noticed more people requesting information and looked forward to each opportunity to share the Army and its benefits.
Following recruiting duty, he became an Army instructor serving at an NCO academy and an Advanced Individual Training unit and throughout the rest of his career he taught hundreds of other classes before he retired. All of which, led to his current position as education coordinator for the Texas Division of Emergency Management.
Having experienced the benefits himself, Reina continues to encourage young men and women embarking on careers to select an Army career field that interests them and to take advantage of all of the benefits the Army provides. Educational opportunities are plentiful, and the ability to get a degree, receive certification and learn trades is easily achievable.
"The opportunities are there for you and the Army can help you make your dreams a reality," he said.
Reina feels both humbled and proud to not only have met and worked with Bellavia during a short special duty assignment, but to have also introduced many other men and women to a life of service. He encourages recruiters to always recruit with integrity and honor and to do their best for every single applicant with whom they have the privilege to work.
"If they were your son or daughter, or brother or sister, what level of service and professionalism would you expect another recruiter to give to them?" Reina said. "Treat your applicants like that, and don't ever forget that they are the reason that you are there."