FORT CARSON, Colo. - Sergeants major are responsible for much of the direction and performance of a unit’s enlisted personnel. They are the top senior noncommissioned officers and are looked upon as role models for how a senior NCO carries themselves, operates and behaves. When you have that star in the middle of your chest, you are always on display, and Sgt. Maj. Antonio Roman, 1st Space Brigade operations sergeant major, is always around if you need him, for anything.
With 24 years active duty and Army National Guard service to date, Roman has seen and done a lot in his military career. From deployments to the Middle East during the Global War on Terror in the early-to-mid 2000s, to an assignment with the Army’s famed Delta Force at Fort Bragg, N.C., Roman feels very fortunate to have had an exciting and rewarding career.
Born in Ponce, and raised in Yauco, both in Puerto Rico, Roman joined the Puerto Rico Army National Guard in 1998 to follow in his father and grandfather’s footsteps, who both served in the Army as sergeants. His first job in the military was an artilleryman, mainly because it was convenient - he could literally walk to drill from his home. While he was a traditional Guardsman, he was in college studying chemical engineering, but decided to join the active duty Army during his junior year.
Roman said it was an eye-opener traveling to the mainland U.S.
“Going to AIT (advanced individual training) at Fort Sill (Oklahoma) and being around other cultures was very interesting,” Roman said. “It was the first time I left Puerto Rico as an adult.”
Upon crossing over into active duty from the National Guard, Roman’s first duty station was in the 82nd Field Artillery, 1st Cavalry Division, at Fort Hood, Texas. After a nine-month rotation to the Balkans, followed by a four-month deployment to the Kuwait/Iraq border in 2002, which Roman called the “most miserable” experience he’s ever had, he reclassed into satellite communications.
From his time in Kuwait, Roman then moved briefly to the 2nd Infantry Division in Uijeongbu, Korea, followed by an assignment to the 525th Military Intelligence Brigade at Fort Bragg, N.C, serving as a satellite communications NCO. He deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, with the unit during his time there.
Upon completion of his tour, Roman completed an assignment in Southern California as a recruiter, then did a stint with the 2nd NATO Battalion in Naples, Italy, in 2004, working as a “link chief” alongside European allied military. He supervised a joint team comprised of satellite, network, server, and cable troops, and deployed to Afghanistan while stationed there.
“Working with international partners and getting to do exercises all around Europe was great,” Roman said. “We’d fly to somewhere like Macedonia or Romania, and set up a TOC (tactical operations center) and be working side-by-side with our NATO military allies. You grasp the big picture a lot better when you are in a multinational environment like that.”
From working with NATO military allies, in 2006 Roman found himself working as a plans noncommissioned officer in the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii, where he ran an expeditionary communications program. It was there when he applied for a special missions unit at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
He was accepted soon after, and became a special operations communicator for the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta for six years.
“The missions are classified, but the impact is tremendous,” Roman said. “There were things that would come on the news that I was a part of. It was really exciting times. Very fast paced and very rewarding seeing how such a small group of people can make such huge impacts globally, plus knowing that there have only been a select few that have been a part of that exclusive unit, was, and is an honor.”
Working with communications technology in the special operations side of the military opens a lot of doors, and Roman’s next one saw him walk into Army space.
“Space critically enabled special ops missions, so I was somewhat familiar with it already,” Roman said. “I wanted to stay operationally relevant as a sergeant major, so this command was a good fit for me.”
Roman admits it took a bit getting used to a conventional Army unit again after being in the special operations world for years. He said both sides of the coin have similar goals and programs, but the process to attain them is significantly different.
One goal Roman achieved during this time period was attaining the rank of sergeant major.
“This is probably the best spot I could land as a sergeant major,” Roman said. “I am involved when our Soldiers deploy, when they are training in garrison, when they are testing new equipment, and when they are working with new military partners, I am actively involved. At any other unit, I might only be doing the admin. side of a sergeant major’s duties. While obviously I have that here, there is so much more to my position within the brigade.”
Interested in technology and space in general, Roman said he sees 1st Space Brigade as THE future within the Army and assumes it will only grow larger over time. He is excited to be a part of the organization and plans on it being his final unit.
“It took a long time, but finally I am in a spot where I can affect change,” Roman said. “People tend to listen to a sergeant major because they have been around for a while.”
When asked what parting words a seasoned Army sergeant major could give to his fellow Soldiers, he ended with this advice:
“Never settle, and always try to do the best at whatever you do. It doesn’t matter if it is during a physical fitness test or during a field exercise doing technical work,“ Roman said. “Competition breeds excellence, always support your superiors and teammates, and take those tough assignments. That is how you excel above your peers.”