Early influence reveals lifelong call to service for MICC leader
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Command Sgt. Maj. Chantel Sena-Diaz retires from the U.S Army after 32 years of service during a ceremony June 1 at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Sena-Diaz has served as the command sergeant major of the Mission and Installation Contracting Command since December 2019. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army illustration) VIEW ORIGINAL
Early influence reveals lifelong call to service for MICC leader
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Command Sgt. Maj. Chantel Sena-Diaz retires from the U.S Army after 32 years of service during a ceremony June 1 at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Sena-Diaz has served as the command sergeant major of the Mission and Installation Contracting Command since December 2019. (Photo Credit: Daniel P. Elkins) VIEW ORIGINAL

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (May 26, 2022) -- The early impactful influence of JROTC in the face of a tragic act of violence solidified the path of a Denver West High School sophomore to become an Army leader culminating as the command sergeant major for the Mission and Installation Contracting Command after 32 years of service.

Command Sgt. Maj. Chantel Sena-Diaz credits true leadership by Vietnam War veteran and JROTC instructor Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Damon as the foremost influence in her life inspiring a call to serve following her 1991 high school graduation.

“He saw something in me and challenged me every day to be the best version of myself,” she recalled. “One day my classmate shot another student in the face. Sergeant Damon and I responded to the victim, attempting to provide first aid. Although we unnecessarily lost a life that day, I saw strength in a moment of uncertainty from Sergeant Damon. Like most who create bonds from shared hardship, I knew in that moment that I would follow him into battle if called … and so my Army journey began.”

And although that journey comes to a fruition June 1 for Sena-Diaz as she prepares to retire during a ceremony at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, she traces the traits and characteristics instilled early through JROTC as foundational to the Army values that have since guided her successful career.

“I learned from JROTC that if you have a great work ethic, are disciplined in your thoughts and actions, and are not afraid to take a challenge, you can achieve almost anything you set your sights on,” Sena-Diaz said, adding her family was equally certain of her eventual decision to serve. “I was confident if I enlisted in the Army, that I would have the opportunity to achieve great things; to break ceilings. I also had a special relationship with my grandfather, and he was very proud of my service. I didn’t know I would be a command sergeant major one day, but I knew I couldn’t give anything less than excellence – had to make my grandfather proud.”

The older of only two siblings, Sena-Diaz jests that her sister often teased her as being bossy and a perfectionist, which seemed to destine her to become a command sergeant major. Born and raised in Denver, she joined the U.S. Army Reserve as a logistician before her senior year of high school. Following graduation, her attempts to enter active duty were hindered due to a service drawdown following the Gulf War. Working closely with her recruiter to leverage a waiver option to enlist due to financial hardship, the shrinking opportunities to serve yielded the choice of only two military occupational specialties, cook and chaplain assistant.

“I always said they could have offered me cook and mechanic, and I would be turning wrenches today. I just knew I didn’t want to be a cook; they have to get up too early,” she said.

Early influence reveals lifelong call to service for MICC leader
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Command Sgt. Maj. Chantel Sena-Diaz retires from the U.S Army after 32 years of service during a ceremony June 1 at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Sena-Diaz has served as the command sergeant major of the Mission and Installation Contracting Command since December 2019. (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo) VIEW ORIGINAL
Early influence reveals lifelong call to service for MICC leader
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Command Sgt. Maj. Chantel Sena-Diaz, right, retires from the U.S Army after 32 years of service during a ceremony June 1 at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Sena-Diaz has served as the command sergeant major of the Mission and Installation Contracting Command since December 2019. (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

It was her experiences during that first enlistment and early in her military service she believes set her up for success throughout the remainder of her career. At her first duty station, she poured hours of study and rehearsal into becoming the Soldier of the year and going on to compete at the Army Materiel Command level. But it was followed by one hard lesson.

“One morning, I woke up late for post flag call, and I recall the command sergeant major saying, ‘I know she’s the Soldier of the year, let’s set the example and give her an Article 15,” Sena-Diaz said. “That helped me learn very quickly, you cannot rest on your laurels. Keep it simple … be at the right place, at the right time, with the right uniform and right attitude.”

Sena-Diaz said that takeaway carried a realization that Soldiers do make mistakes, which requires an environment where it’s okay to fail, without making people feel like failures.

“The command sergeant major did not have it out for me, I just had to understand that discipline and standards require just that, discipline and standards,” she said. “And when we make mistakes, we have to own them without blaming circumstance or the people around you. Be humble in high circumstances and hopeful in low circumstances. This concept takes practice and prayer, but it is necessary in our successes and failures.”

Early influence reveals lifelong call to service for MICC leader
Command Sgt. Maj. Chantel Sena-Diaz, left, retires from the U.S Army after 32 years of service during a ceremony June 1 at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Sena-Diaz has served as the command sergeant major of the Mission and Installation Contracting Command since December 2019. (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

Having been raised as Catholic, she firmly believes the calling to serve in the Chaplain Corps is part of her spiritual walk that has matured in adulthood as a Christian and plays a critical role today as an Army leader.

“We call on our Soldiers and families to make great sacrifices. Those sacrifices oftentimes leave indelible impressions on our lives,” she said. “Our Chaplain Corps not only protects religious freedoms, but they stand ready to walk with our Soldiers and families in their darkest hour. We know our people are our greatest asset. In the same way we care for our prized possessions, chaplains and religious affairs specialists care for our people – taking a holistic approach to mind, body and soul.

“Early in my leadership years, I tended to be very black and white. Life has a way of humbling people, and no one is immune to hardships. Death, illness, failure, investigation, divorce, you fill in the blank. Remember, behind every briefing, weapon, tank, plane, decision and uniform is a person,” Sena-Diaz continued. “I get we are a results-driven organization where winning really does matter, but sometimes we need to be a little more absorbed in the process, and not attached solely to the outcome.”

It is that approach, underpinning today’s Army People First strategy, that has guided the MICC command sergeant major through 15 assignments and a number of operational deployments.

“My experience has been more like Dolly Parton’s ‘Coat of Many Colors.’ People may not always see the beauty of the assignments, but I was always being positioned for a purpose,” Sena-Diaz said. “Wherever I serve, I am all in, and the people and experiences will always be a special part of me.”

A Pentagon assignment introduced her to the strategic world and exposure to great leaders. At West Point, she worked in both a Catholic Church and Jewish synagogue during which she witnessed firsthand the formation of a faithful relationship after assigning a Muslim Soldier to work in support of a Rabbi at the synagogue, reinforcing one of the Army’s greatest strengths of diversity. While assigned to the U.S. Army Africa Command, she worked with an Imam to advanced partnerships never before explored by her American counterparts, giving her access and opportunity with Defense forces and academies across the continent. Also, she found serving as the commandant of the Noncommissioned Officer Academy both rewarding and exhausting at the same time.

Early influence reveals lifelong call to service for MICC leader
Command Sgt. Maj. Chantel Sena-Diaz retires from the U.S Army after 32 years of service during a ceremony June 1 at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Sena-Diaz has served as the command sergeant major of the Mission and Installation Contracting Command since December 2019. (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

Throughout those assignments and over the last three decades, she has seen many changes in the Army including the advancement of women in leadership and key positions, but feels there is still work to be done.

“I have sat in many of meetings where I am one of a handful, if not the only female at the table. I hope seeing many of ‘the firsts’ over the last seven years inspires our young men and women who are serving today or thinking about serving,” the command sergeant major said. “We are a reflection of our communities, and I hope that all the young ‘PFC Senas of the world’ feel empowered to achieve great things through hard work and a commitment to excellence. The only thing holding you back is you.”

Early influence reveals lifelong call to service for MICC leader
Command Sgt. Maj. Chantel Sena-Diaz retires from the U.S Army after 32 years of service during a ceremony June 1 at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Sena-Diaz has served as the command sergeant major of the Mission and Installation Contracting Command since December 2019. (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

She said guiding that next generation of Soldiers calls for developing leaders rooted in standards and discipline who possess the required character qualities and enduring leader characteristics to prepare and confront unexpected challenges from an adaptive enemy.

“We do this by investing in leader development, executing a robust talent management strategy, and developing relevant and rigorous training both at home station and in the institutional training environment,” said Sena-Diaz, who likens her knack for training to being a basketball player who truly understands the game, its strategy and teammates. “We have to be intentional about taking leaders with the right experience and pair them with those who have the ability to visualize the landscape and turn that into viable training packages.”

Along with the right leaders, she insists that mentorship and its undeniable benefits remain paramount.

“We could argue the difference between coaching and mentoring, but the bottom line is we serve something bigger than ourselves,” Sena-Diaz said. “It creates synergy, community, focus, culture and legacy. We have a responsibility, a duty really, to pour into the next generation.”

Following her retirement ceremony, the MICC command sergeant major is eager to dedicate more time to her family and spouse, Sgt. Maj. Amanda Reuter, who serves as the chief of religious affairs for U.S. Army South. Having met 15 years ago, deploying and serving as youth leaders together at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, they are now preparing for a move to Germany in November for Reuter’s next assignment.

“She’s an incredible leader, highly disciplined and physically fit. We make a great team, and I’m so thankful for all of the support over the years,” Sena-Diaz said. “I’m excited for the next season together – what a blessing.”

Once settled in Germany, Sena-Diaz plans to pursue a doctorate in education, build her endurance for long bike rides, and volunteer in the community.

“Since I plan to live to 106, I should probably find another career. That said, I’m likely to find myself back in the educational realm as that is where my passion lies,” she said. “But I think when the time is right, it will be revealed to me. As a person of faith, I believe God will place me exactly where I need to be and equip me accordingly.”

About the MICC

Headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, the Mission and Installation Contracting Command consists of about 1,300 military and civilian members who are responsible for contracting goods and services in support of Soldiers as well as readying trained contracting units for the operating force and contingency environment when called upon. As part of its mission, MICC contracts are vital in feeding more than 200,000 Soldiers every day, providing many daily base operations support services at installations, facilitate training in the preparation of more than 100,000 conventional force members annually, training more than 500,000 students each year, and maintaining more than 14.4 million acres of land and 170,000 structures.