By Sgt. Jennifer Spradlin, 16th MPADApril 24, 2012
FORT BLISS, Texas -- The Army lifestyle is not for the faint of heart. It demands a level of commitment and discipline unparalleled in the private sector. While some might consider it a job, the best Soldiers know it is more than that; it is a profession, a profession with a purpose.
In 2008, Sgt. Edward Garibay graduated from the University of Scranton with a bachelor's degree in marketing. His job search turned up opportunities which left him underwhelmed and unfulfilled. He turned to his brother Richard, who had served for three years in the Army as a fuel handler, and together they visited the local recruiter's office. He decided he would commission into the Army.
He joked that he had a little bit of an edge over the other new Soldiers because he had memorized his brother's old Army Basic Training Study Guide from cover to cover, but it is an example of how, even at the beginning of his career, he understood that success in the Army lies in preparation.
"When I joined the Army, right away in Basic Combat Training, getting the chance to lead Soldiers, even as student leadership, gave me a sense of purpose," said Garibay. "I thought, 'this is what I am meant to do.' As I progressed through [BCT], I realized everything was a culmination of preparing to make me a good Soldier in the Army."
Garibay graduated from BCT as Soldier of the Cycle and progressed to Officer Candidate School, excited about his prospects as an Army leader. Unfortunately, Garibay aggravated an old running injury and was unable to complete the course. He described his time in the medical holding company as some of his darkest moments since joining the Army.
"When I was injured, there were a bunch of other people who were getting chaptered out of the Army or leaving and were just really bitter about not being an officer, and it was a really toxic place," said Garibay. "I even found myself getting to the point where I wasn't happy my situation in the Army, but you find those people who have strength and perseverance, and if you get together with those people and avoid the people who are pessimistic -- it's uplifting. You can even take a negative experience and turn it into an absolute positive one."
Assured by his faith in God he was on the right path; Garibay soon realized a noncommissioned officer is a leader of Soldiers. He came to believe their leadership was even more personal and impactful in the lives of young Soldiers. Armed with his new career progression, he arrived at the 16th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment in 2010 and prepared to deploy with them to Kandahar, Afghanistan.
Keenly aware of his goals, even as a specialist, Garibay sought to take advantage of every opportunity to volunteer for extra duties or missions which would make him into a more well-rounded Soldier. He quickly stood out to his command team and was selected to go to the promotion board ahead of his peers. He was promoted to sergeant in June 2011, and returned to Fort Bliss in August 2011, where he made the Commandant's List in Warrior Leadership Course and was selected as the 15th Sustainment Brigade NCO of the Year. In March 2012, he attended Advanced Leadership Course and was the class Distinguished Honor Graduate.
Despite the level of success he has achieved in his short military career, Garibay remains humble and eager to help other Soldiers progress their own careers.
"I think a lot of people lose themselves in trying to progress their career, rather than progressing their career to help Soldiers. That's what the Army does: help Soldiers," said Garibay. "My first sergeant said something which stuck with me. She said 'the Army is the only organization in the world in which its members truly care about each other.' I firmly believe that."
Soldiers need to learn to invest in themselves, he said. It comes down to being a professional, a professional by choice. Rather than waiting for opportunities to come their way, Soldiers should hunt them up and research the steps to make their particular goals happen. Soldiers should focus on all aspects of professionalism; for example, physical fitness, education and volunteerism.
"You have to make a choice to be a professional and being a professional is striving for excellence. If you never settle for just good enough, you'll always be above the standard," said Garibay. "As far as leadership, for me, it's giving a damn. It's caring. That's what it is. A Soldier can always tell if you care about them. Even if it's not your subordinate, a Soldier can tell if you are looking out for their best interests, and they'll always follow you. That's what a NCO should be to me: caring."
Garibay credits the leadership example set by the sergeants in his unit for helping him to become the sergeant he is today. His short-term goals are to finish his master's degree in military studies, gain acceptance into the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club and find his way to Army Drill Sergeant School. Wherever he goes during his career in the Army, he'd like to be an example to his subordinates and peers.
"It is my personal opinion that the leadership you have changes your experience in the Army. Good Soldiers are driven out of the Army by poor leadership every day," said Garibay. "All a Soldier needs is one spectacular leader to be transformed into an amazing Soldier and for them to do great things in the Army. It is my goal to be that spectacular leader for Soldiers."