Mexican American platoon sergeant leads ‘SPO Nation’
1 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Sgt. 1st Class Julia Puente, medical logistics NCO, 1st Theater Sustainment Command, (center) is surrounded by her family at Fort Knox, Kentucky. They traveled from Chicago to participate in her promotion ceremony March 2022, when she was last promoted. (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL
Mexican American platoon sergeant leads ‘SPO Nation’
2 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Sgt. 1st Class Julia Puente, medical logistics NCO, 1st Theater Sustainment Command (seated second from left) smiles with her 1st TSC teammates at the 1st TSC spring military ball at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky in 2023. (Photo Credit: Barbara Gersna) VIEW ORIGINAL
Mexican American platoon sergeant leads ‘SPO Nation’
3 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Sgt. 1st Class Julia Puente, medical logistics NCO, 1st Theater Sustainment Command, (second from the left in hat) completes the Saint Patrick's Day Run with some of her 1st TSC teammates at Fort Knox, Kentucky March 17, 2023. (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL
Mexican American platoon sergeant leads ‘SPO Nation’
4 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Sgt. 1st Class Julia Puente, medical logistics NCO, 1st Theater Sustainment Command, reenlists aboard a C-130 Army Aircraft at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, Hawaii in December 2020. (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT KNOX, Ky. - She joined the Army at 18 to become independent and pay for college. She intended to complete only one term, but 13 years later, this Mexican American is still serving her country - and loving it.

Sgt. 1st Class Julia Puente, medical logistics NCO, support operations, 1st Theater Sustainment Command, is one of the unit’s many Hispanic Soldiers prospering, gaining power, and progressing in America. She is the platoon sergeant for the support operations section of the unit, which members affectionately call 'SPO Nation' for esprit-de-corps and section cohesiveness. A daughter of Mexican immigrants, she was born and raised in Chicago. “We didn’t have much money, but we still had a lot of fun,” Puente said.

She has fond memories of a loving childhood surrounded by family and friends sharing food together. “We were either barbequing or eating Mexican food,” Puente said. She also recalls large birthday parties where the adults danced and spent time together as the kids laughed and hit pinatas. Some of the Mexican food they would make, that she still cooks today, are tamales, fajitas, and enchiladas.

One of Puente’s fondest memories from her childhood was her traditional quinceañera party when she turned 15. This celebration has cultural roots in both Mexico and Spain and is widely celebrated by girls throughout Latin America. It’s a coming-of-age celebration, marking the transition to womanhood and honors the girl’s heritage, family, and faith. “My sister and I were a year apart, and she celebrated her sweet 16 as I was turning 15. My mom went all out for the party,” she recalled.

Her mother also taught her to be accepting of all people. “We may look different, eat different foods, and have different customs. However, we all bleed the same color. We all experience similar things. We can’t treat someone differently based on the color of their skin,” Puente remembers her mom teaching.

“This allows me to have a love for all people,” she added.

Since her parents divorced when she was young, her mother insisted that she be independent. “Dad wasn’t around so my mom also told me that I needed to be able to take care of myself. Whether it was checking my oil, cooking, or cleaning,” Puente did it all.

“Family is everything in the Mexican culture,” she added. “We come together in good and bad times. I just can’t stay mad at my family members.” Her mom and siblings remain her biggest support system today. With many customs, celebrations, music and food, Puente celebrates being a Mexican American.

She described the town where some of her family is from, Leon Guanajuato, also known as the ‘Town of Mummies.’ “There is something unique in the rich soil there that helps preserve corpses.

“We have pyramids too,” Puente added. Teotihuacan Pyramids are also known as the ‘City of Gods,’ and a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage Site. It’s home of two of the most famous pyramids in Mexico – the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon.

When the Support Operations platoon sergeant isn’t working with Soldiers, she spends her time volunteering, reading, and working on her degree. She volunteered helping plan the unit’s spring ball this year, and volunteers with the local Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental Association Gold Vault Chapter. “We volunteered with Wreathes Across America, Feeding America, and the local helping hand closet, sorting clothes. She also enjoys running. Puente has visited many local attractions in Kentucky, but still wants to see Mammoth Cave.

Puente is also passionate about suicide prevention, after experiencing loss to suicide both inside the military and in the civilian world. She took a different approach to suicide prevention after those incidents. “Now I take time to focus on the person and actively listen to learn how people are really doing,” she explained. “I tell Soldiers that the Army will go on without them and encourage them to take care of themselves.” She recognizes that it’s important to know each other as people outside of the uniform and be able to distinguish when people aren’t acting like themselves.

“It’s important to stay connected with Soldiers on your team so that they know there are people who care about them,” Puente said. “Everyone needs to feel like they belong,” she added.

Now only two classes away from completing a bachelor’s degree, Puente is grateful for the many opportunities she’s had serving in the Army. She has traveled throughout the world. She was stationed in Hawaii, Fort Detrick, Maryland, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, and Fort Knox. She is also financially independent, taking care of herself, learning and teaching throughout her career.

“Since working in logistics, I see that nothing can happen without supplies,” Puente said. She communicates with those at U.S. Army Central and at the 1st TSC’s operational command post in Kuwait. She’s learned about different classes of supply and provides oversight. “I communicate any issues with medical supplies, to ensure those who need the information receive it,” she said.

Puente is well respected by her peers, subordinates, and superiors. She’s an NCO who looks out for her teammates, and Lt. Col. Ninotchka Rosas-Hernandez, support operations and materiel management branch chief, 1st TSC, has taken notice. “Sgt. 1st Class Puente is the epitome of what we call the backbone of our Army,” she praised.

“She is an excellent NCO who places the needs and the welfare of Soldiers and teammates above her own and sets high standards for all to emulate.

“In addition, she is fair and impartial to ensure all Soldiers are treated equally within the 1st TSC. She is a trusted, reliable NCO who always says, ‘present,’ and volunteers not only within the Army but also in the Fort Knox community.

“Lastly, I can without a doubt, say that Puente is a genuine and authentic leader who represents the highest standards of the Army,” Rosas-Hernandez said.

As for Puente, she said, “It’s been an amazing ride and I’m definitely thankful for it.”