OKINAWA, Japan - In an air defense first, the 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment's female command team leads their battalion to the forefront of a growing trade.
With more than 40 years of combined service, Lt. Col. Rosanna M. Clemente, air and missile defense officer, and Command Sgt. Maj. Melissa Calvo, air defense artillery senior enlisted advisor, guide and train more than 570 troops on rapid modernization air and missile defense capabilities to counter existing and future aerial threats in the Indo-Pacific region.
"It's a unique situation to work with our bilateral Japan Self-Defense Force partners as well as joint maritime, fires, and aviation elements to accomplish a real-world mission," said Clemente, Wood-Ridge, New Jersey native. "We are the first line of defense as the only Patriot Missile Battalion in the Pacific and continue to protect the force from air and missile threats against the U.S., our deployed forces, and our allies. It's a tremendous responsibility and honor that both Command Sgt. Maj. Calvo and I share as a command team."
The 1-1 ADA command team seeks to improve warfighting capabilities through a myriad of annual exercises, increasing the battalion's ability to maintain its four firing batteries. This environment also requires a certain equilibrium, which Calvo strives to achieve for Soldiers under her care.
"The operational tempo of our unit is very fast-paced with many multi-domain and bilateral training exercises. Maintaining ready-Soldiers who have a healthy life-work balance is important," said Calvo, Tuscon, Arizona native. "This is a three-year tour and I'm fortunate to have my husband, Juan, daughter, Ashley, and Soldiers to keep me going every day."
Clemente said women who have defied gender roles have created opportunities for others to pursue their passions and demonstrate their capabilities to the world.
"Our battalion has an approximately seven to 10 percent female demographic, but amongst those, many are in leadership positions such as battery commander, first sergeant, platoon leaders, and squad leaders," said Clemente. "All of the Soldiers are doing exceptionally well, but the women are definitely taking charge."
Clemente, commander of 1-1 ADA since June 2019, describes being a battalion commander as one of the most rewarding experiences.
"Being part of the 1-1 ADA team has been the greatest time of my career," Clemente said. "I absolutely love coming to work every day and take every chance I can to speak with the Soldiers - they are talented, smart, and incredibly resilient. I learn something from them every day and I would not trade a minute of this awesome opportunity."
Clemente attributes her family as one of her driving forces to serve.
"My god mother, Lt. Col. (retired) Minda Casapao, served as an Army nurse during the Gulf War and provided guidance throughout my career," said Clemente. "I come from a family of immigrants that migrated from the Philippines to the United States, so I serve to give back to a country that has given my family so much and to emulate my god mother."
Calvo attributes female forerunners before her as the fact that she is here.
"I knew coming into air defense as a Private Second Class in 1996 that the profession had recently opened up to females," Calvo recalls. "Initially, my mindset was just to survive and never imagined that I would be where I am today. I had always looked up to, Sgt. Maj. (retired) Evelyn Hollis, educator for the NCO Leadership Center of Excellence, for becoming the first female Command Sergeant Major in the Air Defense branch and leading the way for others like myself to follow. I had aspirations of becoming the first female Command Sergeant Major in the branch before Sergeant Major Hollis took the title. Obviously that didn't happen, but it gave me the courage to strive for even higher positions of responsibility within my career and I hope to be that inspiration for my Soldiers as Sgt. Maj. (retired) Hollis was for me."
Calvo advises professionals to lean on competence, not complacency to overcome any biases.
"You need to take the tough jobs to gain experience and put yourself out there so that people can see what you can do," said Calvo. "If you don't put yourself in positions to showcase your commitment as a leader and how you take care of Soldiers, no one is going to notice you or your dedication to the Army and its Soldiers."
Clemente points to a cornerstone of dignity and respect when it comes to leadership - regardless of gender, ethnic, or socio-economic background.
"I think sometimes people are caught off guard when they meet Command Sgt. Maj. Calvo and me. They didn't expect to meet two women to make up the command team - and I've always tried to steer people away from that observation because as long as we treat each other with dignity and respect for what we have to offer as leaders and contribute to the unit and the Army as Soldiers - our gender should not matter," Clemente asserts. "At the end of the day, shaping and motivating our Soldiers to think creatively, demonstrating genuine care for our Soldiers and each other, and building efficiency into the systems of our craft as air defenders will enable our success. It's an art and skill that constantly requires honing and sharpening. Very simply, I hope that the leadership style and approach that Command Sgt. Maj. Calvo and I have adopted as a command team speaks to our Soldiers and encourages them to develop the tools and skills they need in order for them to achieve their dreams...and along the way, become the best air and missile defenders for our country."
The 1-1 ADA command team continues to spearhead the defense of Japan in the Pacific Theater of operation while inspiring their Soldiers to succeed and reach for more. For this air defense command team, the skies are the limits.