FORWARD OPERATING BASE MASUM GHAR, Afghanistan - When Staff Sgt. Luis Santos found out he made the sergeant first class list in March of 2012, he jokingly bet his wife that he would get promoted during his unit's deployment to Afghanistan and that she would miss his fourth promotion in a row.
The half-hearted joke became reality when Santos was promoted to sergeant first class March 1, on Forward Operating Base Masum Ghar in the Panjwa'i District of Afghanistan.
With the strong support of his wife and two kids and a true love for his job, Santos earned the promotion.
"Sergeant first class is a very important rank," said Santos, a Ponce, Puerto Rico, native. "It means a lot ... not only me, but for all of us that are sergeants first class because it takes a lot of sacrifices ... to be here."
One of those sacrifices is being constantly separated from his family and never having them attend any of his promotion ceremonies because every promotion Santos has had has been while deployed.
For Santos, that specific sacrifice started after he graduated Advanced Individual Training to be an automated logistics specialist.
After graduating AIT, Santos went to Korea for a year.
When he returned to the states, he said he thought he finally would get to be with his family.
However, he received some surprising news when he reported to his next duty station, Fort Hood, Texas.
The sponsor from his unit who picked him up from reception informed him that their unit was scheduled to deploy in two months.
"I reported in September 2004 and two months later I was on an airplane getting ready to go to Kuwait on my first deployment," said Santos.
On his first deployment, Santos was promoted to specialist.
During his second six-month deployment to Kuwait, he was promoted to sergeant and on his yearlong tour to Iraq in 2009, he was promoted to staff sergeant.
Earning the rank of staff sergeant wasn't easy, said Santos.
At the time, in order to get promoted to staff sergeant, Santos had to achieve the highest score possible on his Army Physical Fitness Test and qualify as expert on his assigned weapon along with other arduous tasks.
When he became a platoon sergeant, the successes of his soldiers reflected his motivation and love for his job and training soldiers.
Being a platoon sergeant and leading soldiers has been his favorite part of being a noncommissioned officer, he said.
His enthusiasm and dedication to soldiers is something that Santos' wife, Yanira, said she could see.
"I know how hard he's been working to reach all his goals," said Yanira via telephone. "The kids probably don't understand, but for me, I know how hard it's been for him and everything that he has done."
Not being able to have his family attend any of his promotions has been hard for Santos, he said.
"It's very sad because usually when you get promoted, you get the opportunity to be with your family and unfortunately I wasn't able to have that opportunity," said Santos.
Though the newly promoted senior NCO has been in the Army less than 10 years and has been on five deployments, he doesn't regret the career path he chose.
He said he was able to make great strides in his professional career thanks to deployments by improving his physical fitness and learning as much as he could about his job.
Santos said he considers his promotion to sergeant first class to be his biggest accomplishment in his career.
"The most important thing to me is to educate soldiers, and to lead them to be good leaders because the reality is ...we need to make sure we create good leaders so when we leave, our Army is going to be in good hands," he said.
Santos said he credits previous military leaders who helped him and taught him how to be a leader and his supportive family for making it as far as he has in his career.