FORT CARSON, Colo. - Sgt. 1st Class Roland Montes, noncommissioned officer in charge of Detachment 6, 18th Space Company, 1st Space Battalion, 1st Space Brigade, is one of thousands of foreign-born Soldiers serving in our nation’s armed forces.
Emigrating from the Philippines as a child with his family, he experienced the extreme cold and hustle and bustle of city life in Chicago, to quiet, hot rural living in California’s Central Valley later on in high school. The following is his tale of immigration, where the military has taken him, and what his plans are in the years to come.
“Immigration is by definition a gesture of faith in social mobility,” John F. Kennedy once said. “It is the expression in action of a positive belief in the possibility of a better life.”
America is a country full of immigrants. It was built by immigrants. In 1993, one of the country’s newest families to have immigrated from abroad were the Montes’. They arrived in Chicago from a rural area of the Philippines called Daet. This was a 180 degree shift for the family of five. Roland’s mother, Angie, was recruited for a nursing job in the big city. The Montes family moved into the Bridgeport neighborhood on the lower west side of Chicago.
Money was tight. They didn’t have a car, and nine-year-old Roland got used to walking in the frigid Chicago cold tromping through ice and snow. He didn’t know much English, nor anything about the customs and culture of his new surroundings, much less the country he now called home.
“It took me a year to really figure things out,” Roland said. “I made friends with someone who took me under his wing and I started exploring the city as time went on. We took trains and buses everywhere and it was a total eye-opener, especially where I was coming from. I’d never seen snow and that many cars in my life.”
Years later, his mom would land a better paying nursing job in a much safer, more slower-paced, and warmer location in Hanford, California, population 53,000, and the family moved out west. Once again, the move was a bit of a shock to Roland. Going from extreme cold to extreme heat and big city living to rural country surroundings is an about face of a relocation. He spent his high school years in the agricultural hub of California, then decided it was time to get out, see the world, and give a little something back to the country that gave him and his family a better opportunity in life.
Roland joined the Army in 2004 and went into cable installation and maintenance (31L) as his initial service job. He was a “cable dog,” the commonly-used military term that has been given to Soldiers in the career field, and he laid and strung wire from Korea and Japan, to Germany, and over into Iraq. Not literally, but he did his job in all of those countries for stints, as well as in Hawaii at the Defense Information Service Agency (DISA) Network Operations Center Pacific, where he was hand-picked for a tour as a Department of Defense Information Network (DoDIN) battle captain - one of the highlights of his career thus far.
“I was responsible for managing all the networks in the Pacific Command (PACOM) area of responsibility,” Roland said. “I also provided information to the PACOM commander concerning the operational impact to the DoDIN. It was a great assignment.”
But Roland, who had used up all his time overseas, had to come back stateside, and after graduating from the Army’s Senior Leader Course, he automatically became a 25 Sierra and was transferred into SMDC in fall of 2021.
Admitting he knew nothing about Army space before he was transferred to the command, Roland learned fast about the command’s mission and his role in the organization.
“Being in this command has given me an entirely new perspective on not just the Army, but the military as a whole,” Roland said. “Seeing how our highly-trained Soldiers and civilians support the warfighter with space-based capabilities is truly amazing, and a mission I am proud to be a part of.”
Roland is now in year 17 of his career and having just started in SMDC, he plans to stick around for a while in the command, perhaps even as a civilian contractor in cybersecurity someday.