SAN DIEGO - The senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff talked to Soldiers and Airmen of the California National Guard Jan. 18 about his job and the chairman's priorities.

SEAC Ramón "CZ" Colón-López was introduced by U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Thomas James, California's senior enlisted advisor to the adjutant general, during an all-hands meeting. Colón-López explained the position of SEAC -- the highest enlisted job in the Department of Defense.

The position was created in 2005 under then-Chairman Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace. The SEAC advises the chairman on all matters involving enlisted personnel. As Colón-López explained, it means a lot of traveling, spending time with troops and keeping a finger on the pulse of enlisted personnel.

Colón-López talked to the troops about the importance of readiness and developing leaders from the bottom up.

"I want to echo what Gen. Baldwin (Maj. Gen. David Baldwin, California's adjutant general) said to you about empowering your junior troops," Colón-López said. "It is the responsibility of us as the NCOs and officers of today to grow, develop and mentor the leaders of tomorrow."

Colón-López encouraged questions from the troops.

"I want to hear from you," he said. "What's on your mind, what do you want me to take back to the chairman?"

Asked about the high number of suicides in the military, Colón-López said the issue was one of the highest priorities of the chairman and that programs were being implemented to address the problem.

"We must remove the stigma of seeking treatment," Colón-López stressed, "and ensure that anyone that needs help gets the help they need."

That evening, Colón-López was the keynote speaker during the annual Service Member of the Year Banquet recognizing the top troops from the California Army Guard, Air Guard, and State Guard.

"This is probably the most people I've seen standing behind a podium," he told the more than 1,000 assembled service members -- the largest crowd in the event's history.

Colón-López thanked the family members in attendance.

"Your sacrifice is seldom measured or rewarded. But you always rise to task without reservation or expectation," he said. "You truly are the strength of this nation."

Colón-López spoke of the rich history of the California National Guard and its many accomplishments for the state and nation. He lauded all the individuals nominated and left them with a passionate message.

"Let this experience serve as a lifelong expectation of your performance and your capabilities. You are now the standard, and you are not allowed to regress."

In closing, he charged everyone to use the milestone as a defining checkpoint in their career.

"After tonight, your mission is to help others have their moment in the future, much like you're having here tonight," he said. "You need to be the change you want to see, and you need to be the leader that you always wish you had. Carry on with humility and humor and never sell your soul in order to impress. Just be comfortable being you."

Following the ceremony, Colón-López joined members of the 562nd Band, Air National Guard Band of the West Coast, for an impromptu jam session on the electric guitar.

For Sgt. Alec Rantanen, 149th Chemical, Biological, Radioactive and Nuclear Defense Company, 49th Military Police Brigade, and winner of the California Army National Guard Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year Award, the impromptu performance was the perfect match to SEAC's words.

"As NCOs, we must remain professional in and out of uniform," Rantanen said. "But SEAC showed me that despite that fact, we need to be authentic and build relationships with our Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, Marines."