ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- ln honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, Department of Defense personnel are recognized for their excellence and rich, unique culture. In doing so, like all observances, a greater understanding and appreciation is offered to the workforce of the people with whom they serve.
National Hispanic Heritage Month is from Sept. 15 - Oct. 15. This year’s theme is “Todos Somos, Somos Uno: We Are All, We Are One.”
One Hispanic person with a very interesting background is ASC’s command sergeant major stationed at its headquarters here on a small island in a section of the Mississippi River that flows east to west.
Command Sgt. Maj. Jorge Escobedo made his presence felt immediately after his change of responsibility ceremony last June.
Prior to this assignment, Escobedo served as the command sergeant major for the Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Lee (known as Fort Gregg-Adams since 2023), Virginia.
His ever-present smile and handshake offer genuine friendliness, while his presence exhibits an ultra-professional demeanor that is expected of a person of his rank and position.
“I have not always been this way. Fortunately, I have evolved and developed a commitment to become a servant and adaptive leader,” Escobedo pointed out. He learned that building positive relationships with people was the path to success for him.
“Our people are our most valuable resource; we must invest in and care for them. That requires knowing them and developing relationships – ‘Our People are our Credentials,’ – Military, Civilians, and their families,” he said.
“For me, it means reaffirming that diversity is one of our country's greatest strengths while acknowledging and recognizing the tremendous contributions of Hispanic Americans throughout its (U.S.) history,” Escobedo explained.
“Over the history of the United States, Hispanic Americans have not hesitated to show their commitment to this great nation. This, in many ways, but primarily through their military service. More importantly, this nation and its military draws its strength and lethality from the diversity that makes up America's melting pot,” he added.
Annual observances such as Hispanic Heritage Month, Escobedo said, are very important.
“It is extremely valuable, showcasing Hispanic Americans' many contributions to our nation. I am proud to mention that Hispanic Americans have served with pride and distinction in every major U.S. conflict since the Civil War. We are defending our way of life and our freedom,” he said.
Escobedo first came to the U.S. in 1989 and did not speak English. His mother decided to get him out of Mexico and into the U.S. to provide him better opportunities.
“My mom knew staying in Mexico would ultimately result in me ending up in jail,” Escobedo said, based on previous run-ins with the law and his lack of self-discipline.
This led to him living with his oldest sister and his brother-in-law at a Marine station in Oceanside, California.
His brother-in-law was also of Hispanic descent, a Desert Storm/Desert Shield combat veteran, and a “fearful figure I learned as Gunny Cooke,” Escobedo said.
“His exceptional example and demanding discipline changed my life immediately and forever. This motivated me to learn English in less than six months; become an honor roll student; be highly successful in high school Marine Corps ROTC; and attend flight school, earning a private and instruments license in one year,” Escobedo explained.
All this, he said, created the desire for a calling and commitment to aggressively pursue becoming part of the Army in 1994 as a personnel records specialist.
This meant a daily commitment of preparing to become a noncommissioned officer, a highly adaptable leader, and chasing excellence in all his endeavors, he said.
Despite this seismic change in Escobedo’s life, leaving Mexico was not easy as much of his family still resides in Mexico.
“All my relatives, except my sister and mom, reside in Mexico. My mother immigrated from Mexico City to the United States after my father's passing, a few years after my arrival,” he explained. “My amazing spouse and rock of 23 years, Lydia, is also from Mexico … Sinaloa to be exact. All her family continues to reside there.”
The loss of his father was a huge loss.
He was “my hero, a great role model regarding my commitment to excellence and work ethic. He was a workaholic,” Escobedo said.
During his Army career, one interesting and historical assignment Escobedo experienced was the great distinction of becoming the Army’s first non-11 series (infantry branch) NCO to serve as a Ranger Company first sergeant.
Escobedo said he had the privilege of serving in the 75th Ranger Regiment for 12 years, living daily by the Ranger Creed while always giving 100% and then some.
This regiment is the premier light infantry unit and special operations force within the Army’s Special Operations.
“Becoming the first non-11 series [military occupational specialty] NCO to serve as a Ranger Company first sergeant is linked to the support, example, and development I received from those elite, well-trained, and specially selected Rangers who are constantly tested for the privilege of serving in the Regiment,” he said, “transforming me into a standard-bearer for discipline, physical fitness, and excellence, developing an excellent reputation as a multifunctional Ranger.”
His assignment as first sergeant was from April 2007 to March 2009.
This, along with living by the pledge Escobedo made to himself upon his arrival in the U.S. – valuing and taking advantage of every opportunity America and the Army provided to him – were the biggest gamechangers in his life.
The “opportunities were not afforded to me in my country of origin,” he pointed out. This all led to a “commitment to pursuing excellence, perseverance, and a strong work ethic.”
His service includes deploying seven times in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and four times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Military service can be measured in various ways but one of them is being decorated with prestigious awards – he has earned three Legions of Merit, two Bronze Star Medals, Defense Meritorious Service Medal and five Meritorious Service Medals. This, along with being inducted into the Order of Saint Maurice, the Order of Horatio Gates Bronze Medal, the Order of St. Christopher, the Order of Saint Martin, and receiving the Gen. Brehon B. Somervell Medal of Excellence.
While joining the military is not for everybody, Escobedo knows the benefits firsthand of serving to provide meaningful purpose in one’s life, whether it’s just for one hitch or making a career of it.
“To today's Hispanic youth, although I am incredibly proud to be a Hispanic American, I am prouder of being an American Soldier in the United States Army and a citizen of this great nation,” Escobedo said, “who, without a doubt, made me who I am today. An institution that continues to provide unlimited opportunities to my family and myself and a great way of life.”
The Army, he said, is an “organization dedicated to equality and responsible for producing the best leaders and citizens this nation has ever seen; ethical citizens committed to living by the Army Values and Warrior Ethos.”
The values Escobedo speaks of are loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. The ethos is: “I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade.”
With ASC, Escobedo said he sees his role as developing complementary efforts to the commanding general’s vision, mission, and priorities, and assisting to integrate, synchronize, and deliver readiness across the tactical, operations and strategic environment. And, he said, allowing ASC to integrate and synchronize key elements of the sustainment enterprise to deliver capabilities in support of Army forces during joint all-domain worldwide operations.
When not wearing the uniform, Escobedo said he is fully dedicated to his wife and two sons, as well as working out and woodworking.
“Working out and woodworking is my outlet, the way I decompress and build my resilience,” he said.
With nearly 30 years of Army service, Escobedo said he is not yet sure what the future holds when he does eventually retire.
Aside from his numerous training and course graduations in the Army, Escobedo holds a Bachelor of Science in business with a concentration in management human resources from Excelsior College.
“Truthfully, I don't know; the military is all I know and something I love and cherish. I would love to continue investing my time in developing others and myself, and spending more time with my wife and boys.”