FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz., So, what does a high-energy, fast-paced, junior noncommissioned officer assigned to a high-op tempo command group billet do when suddenly thrust into a telework environment? What she always does, make the best of the situation she finds herself.
Sgt. Jessica Estrada, executive assistant to the U.S. Army Network Enterprise Command’s Command Sergeant Major, Command Sgt. Major Jennifer Taylor, is adjusting to the reality of telework while trying to provide support to the senior enlisted advisor of a global command - and meet the needs of two young children. Not an easy task by any means, but one she takes in stride.
“I like the fact that we are still able to take care of important work,” Estrada began. “However, it is not for me, I feel like being CSM Taylor’s Executive Assistant at a distance does not let me fully perform my duties. I much rather be there in person for on-the-spot questions or concerns.”
Considering all the duties that come with being the assistant to a command sergeant major, she also has a duty as the command group’s Information Management Officer. “With my secondary duty as an IMO is difficult to solve all IT issues over the phone,” Estrada said. “So, in that regard, it has been limiting trying solve issues like a call center agent rather than going over and helping people in person.”
Estrada’s plan to make the best of the situation began with keeping a schedule. “In the morning, I go for a run and workout in my garage,” Estrada said. “Then I sign in to my workstation and respond to pressing emails.”
Once the task of ensuring the overnight and early morning hot email ‘fires’ are put out, Estrada turns to more personal matters. “I take a break to make breakfast and make sure the kids are situated on their daily school work. Same goes for lunch or if they have a pressing need on their school work. Once my work day is over, dinner time and the rest of the evening belongs to the kids so they can catchup with me and spend quality time.”
Leah and Dominic, the two who share their mom with NETCOM, have also had to adjust to the ‘stay at home’ mission. “My son and daughter are completing their classes remotely on Chromebooks provided by the schools [General Myer Elementary and Colonel Smith Middle School], both located on Fort Huachuca,” said Estrada.
“Adjusting to managing their own schedule of weekly assignments has been a challenge in a relaxed home environment,” Estrada explained. “Making a detailed schedule of activities has helped them benchmark their daily progress and hold them accountable. I am grateful for the teachers who have worked hard to provide assignments that are not overwhelming but still challenge the kids to help them learn. They have also done a great job of communicating with parents and students and being available to answer questions and concerns.”
Of course, telework does have its benefits when it comes to quality time. “We spend quality time together during meals, and after my work and their school work is completed,” Estrada said. “The kids have designated theme days to decide on the evening’s activities like movie night, game night, yoga, outdoor activities or just pizza/super nachos day.”
But along with the quality time comes the reason everyone is staying home. “I answer any questions they have about Covid-19 and keep them informed about how events are unfolding without scaring them,” Estrada said. “I also showed them some informative and entertaining documentaries on YouTube that explain what the virus is and its impact. I stressed with my children why they need to use caution in public places, and to follow thorough hygiene practices to keep them safe.”
Keeping busy with the children is important said Estrada. “We participate in USO events. For example we were one of the winners of the “Social Distancing Egg Hunt” in which we won a $25 Amazon gift card. I also get the kids involved in my workouts and have them run with me for the Charlie Run Niner Challenge pushed out by the Commander.
“It has been tough; we like to be outside and explore. So, the state parks and skate parks remaining closed has really limited our options,” Estrada continued. “We’ve made the most of it at home. We had Easter egg hunts two weekends in a row because why not. The kids loved it and it helped to break the monotony. My son and daughter also became good friends, I guess they didn’t have any other option,” she added with a smile.
In addition to the physical activities, Estrada keeps the leisure time as family time. “We watch tons of animated and action movies on Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Disney plus. I think we’ve seen every Disney and Pixar movie ever made by now.”
As the family adjust to the telework environment, Estrada misses the comradery. “I miss my team very much! Having close contact to CSM has been a great learning experience. She has a wealth of knowledge and picking her brain everyday was my favorite part of the job.”
But along with missing the people at work she, like many others, is missing on opportunities.
“My PCS [permeant change of station] to 1st Special Forces Command at Fort Bragg, has been delayed and the details are still up in the air with new information arriving occasionally. This makes planning my relocation days and housing accommodations difficult but we understand and adjust accordingly.
Some of the benefits of telework are still being realized. “I’ve become a pro with using Walmart Grocery Pickup. Remembering things, I forgot to order on my drive back home still happens unfortunately. Besides the obvious shortages of toilet paper, paper towels, and dry foods (rice and beans) we’ve had everything we need so far.”
Of course, for one family member of the Estrada household, nothing could be finer. “My cat Binx has never been happier. He spends all day either trying to cuddle with me or watches me like a gargoyle above my chair while I work.”