By Ms. Alexandra Shea (IMCOM)August 22, 2019
Most parents worry about their children when they leave home to attend Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson. They often have little communication with their service member as they complete the necessary training to earn the title of Soldier. For one father, knowing his son is less than 300 feet away makes the training cycle that much harder.
Pvt. Janio Cespedes of Company A, 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, knew he wanted to follow his father's lead and begin a military career, he just didn't know which route to take to join the Army.
"My father is in (the Army) and I always looked up to him," Pvt. Cespedes said. "So here I am."
His father works just hundreds of feet away as the first sergeant in Company D, 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment. Pvt. Cespedes has seen his father only once in passing during BCT, they shared eye contact that lasted seconds.
"Yes he is close to me, but he is also so far away," said 1st Sgt. Janio D. Cespedes, the senior of the Janio Family name. "I can't see him or talk to him as I would like."
The Army has strict rules about the treatment of trainees. All trainees are equal in the eyes of their drill sergeants, judged only by their action during training. Army regulations prohibit preferential treatment of any trainee regardless of their social status, influence or being the son of a first sergeant in an adjacent company.
At just 17-years-old, Pvt. Cespedes is among the youngest trainees in his company. Both his father and mother had to sign a waiver for him to enlist.
"It wasn't until the middle of 11th grade for him when he started asking questions (about joining the military)," 1st Sgt. Cespedes said. "About a month before he finished 11th grade, he asked me and my wife to sign some papers at the recruiter's office. It took us completely by surprise."
His son decided to pursue the Army's split training option program. Instead of partying the summer away with friends from school, Pvt. Cespedes instead attended BCT for his summer break. After his BCT graduation, he will return home to finish and graduate his senior year of high school. Pvt. Cespedes then hopes to join the Reserve Officer Training Corps program at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia. After completing college, he will commission as an officer.
"I built a foundation for him and I know that his foundation is very strong," 1st Sgt. Cespedes said. "He will do way better than me. I've been coaching him to be better than I was and it feels great (knowing my son will out rank me one day)."
After 10 long weeks of training in the hot and humid South Carolina environment, the two were reunited Aug. 21 during the regiment's Family Day celebration. The hard-earned day allows Families to see their Soldiers the day before they graduate. Soldiers and their Families can spend the day touring the installation at their leisure and the Soldiers are finally allowed to enjoy fast food and drink caffeinated drinks again.
Although Pvt. Cespedes wasn't with his dad during his training, he still felt his father's presence.
"It was a great experience and even though he wasn't with me, he helped me through it all the way," Pvt. Cespedes said. "Everything I did was for both of us. I know it will put a big smile across his face to be able to say his son is a part of the Army now."
The Cespedes Family shares strong Family values and culture. While being interviewed, both repeated the same words and sentiments about pride in one another and a sense of duty to both Family and country. Pvt. Cespedes spoke about his two younger brothers and said he hopes they too will look up to him as a role model as well as their father.
"Because of my long hours at work and unavailability to spend more time with my Family, I would like them to know that everything I have done has been for them," 1st Sgt. Cespedes said. "I am happy and proud, even though he has seen the sacrifices I have made, he still chose to take the same route as me. The Army is not just a job, it's a profession and he is a professional."