By MICHELE JEWETT, CMAJuly 23, 2009
While Sgt. Maj. Ricardo Soto-Acevedo is new to the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency, his return to Aberdeen Proving Ground is a homecoming. The San Juan, Puerto Rican, native has been stationed at APG throughout the past two decades.
"I really enjoy coming to work here at CMA. It's a great atmosphere," Soto-Acevedo said. "To think that I joined the military to gain stability and here I am [at APG] almost twenty-five years later is incredible."
He credited his father with being his role model for choosing a military career.
"My dad is a retired master sergeant who served twenty-seven years in the Army," he said. "If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be the man I am today."
The man he is today is a member of the U.S. Army's Noncommissioned Officer Corps, which comprises a distinguished group of professional enlisted leaders. Education is an important part of his leadership role, and he not only advocates education for his Soldiers, but for himself.
While traveling around the world, Soto-Acevedo graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park, attending college the first two years in Munich, Germany. He is currently working toward a master's degree in homeland security.
"A Soldier's knowledge is what gives him credibility," he added.
Reputation is the other part in becoming a good Soldier, Soto-Acevedo said. He retells the story about when he asks Soldiers what is more important, doing the right thing or doing what's right.
"Usually, ninety percent respond, 'Doing the right thing.' But, this is situational. If a Soldier always does what's right then he won't have to do the right thing," he said.
In his previous roles at APG, Soto-Acevedo worked at several organizations, while also becoming a certified counter proliferation instructor with the Department of Defense, the FBI and the U.S. Customs Service.
At CMA, Soto-Acevedo said his role is to support the director.
"I am also an extension of the employees within the organization, both Soldiers and civilians," he added. "I will gladly assist anyone who needs my help."
Part of Soto-Acevedo's job is to support all of CMA's sites, as he learns more about how they operate. While CMA headquarters is at APG, its mission is spread throughout the United States.
CMA operates chemical demilitarization sites at Anniston Army Depot, Ala.; Pine Bluff Arsenal, Ark.; Newport Chemical Depot, Ind.; Deseret Chemical Depot, Utah; and Umatilla Chemical Depot, Ore. CMA is also responsible for storage of chemical weapon stockpiles at Blue Grass Army Depot, Ky., and Pueblo Chemical Depot, Colo.
"It's awesome the opportunities that I've had. The people in my life have been incredible. I've also been to some amazing places - Korea, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Baghdad," he said.
Soto-Acevedo's office is decorated with memorabilia from many of his tours. One of the most inspiring pieces is his framed poster of the "Darkest Day in American History, 9/11." The poster highlights the front pages of newspapers around the world on Sept. 11, 2001.
Soto-Acevedo does not dwell in the past and only looks back as a reference or for memories. His motto is to live in the present.
"The future will take care of itself," he said. "I do the best I can with what I have, while I am here."