When 1st Sgt. Clarisa Mejia-Fuentes joined the Army 17 years ago, her ambitions were to become a warrant officer and a pilot. But the Army leads to new experiences for many, and Mejia-Fuentes found herself pursuing a different path, which now has her serving as the first sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, First Army.
Early in this journey as a new enlistee, Mejia-Fuentes drew inspiration from the mentors who helped nurture her and she knew she wanted to do the same for others. She was given this chance when she was tapped to serve in a sergeant position as a specialist.
“I realized how much I liked taking care of Soldiers and working around them so I decided to change my original plan of doing one four-year enlistment,” she recalled.
During that first enlistment, Mejia-Fuentes had such a stellar performance that she made sergeant within two years. After pinning on the stripes, she fully understood how much she enjoyed developing Soldiers so she volunteered for drill sergeant school.
“I enjoyed those two years,” Mejia-Fuentes said of her time on the trail. “It’s long hours but you have such an impact. The Soldiers see how you act and you have that influence on them. At the beginning you have to be really hard with the Soldiers because they don’t know anything, but as you progress you get more relaxed and are teaching them everything they need to do. By the end you are mentoring and coaching every day and setting them up for success in their next step.”
She brings that enthusiasm for mentoring to her latest role.
“There’s a lot to learn but I’m a quick learner and I’m here to give 100 percent and I always have pride in what I do,” she said.
She expects the position to be both challenging and rewarding.
“You’re going to learn a lot from everybody and a lot of people will learn from you,” Mejia-Fuentes said. “In a company, one of the first things people are going to see is the first sergeant. It’s important to know how to help and know what you are doing because you’re the face of the company.”
One of the keys to this effective leadership, she noted, is to regularly soak up relevant information.
“You need to know the regulations and stay informed of what’s going on in the Army,” she explained. “If you don’t know, it’s OK to ask. I’ve had a lot of mentors that have helped me learn what I need. If you can see a way to help a Soldier, do it.”
Along those lines, Mejia-Fuentes said her goals during her time as first sergeant will include mentoring and coaching First Army NCOs and furthering their careers.