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NEWS | June 1, 2022

Leader perspective: Service fills unknowns, inspires future success

By Command Sgt. Maj. Chantel Sena-Diaz Mission and Installation Contracting Command command sergeant major

Just nine days after my 17th birthday, with a written endorsement from my mom, I joined the Army out of my hometown in Denver.

Facing a lot of uncertainty and adversity while growing up in a single parent, low-income household, it was my experience in JROTC where I learned about military opportunities and skills that prepared me with many valuable life lessons.

Don’t get me wrong, my family was incredible; but I had already been introduced to some of the corrosives that were running rampant in the community and believe wholeheartedly and to my core that JROTC changed and, maybe, even saved my life while putting me on a course for success.

It was the JROTC program in high school where I learned the value and impact of leaders investing in others. One of the most important lessons I learned early was taking care of people, and that still resonates today – both as a military leader and at home in my community.

As a first-generation high school graduate with unrealized potential, I always had a good work ethic, something I picked up from my mom and grandfather. Enlisting as a logistician and working in a combat heavy engineer battalion, Operation Desert Shield kicked off a month later, and I knew then I was in for an adventure during which the lessons learned early combined with that strong work ethic would pay dividends.

I was filled with excitement over my selection to be one of the first females assigned to an Artillery unit in the mid-1990s only to learn that my male supervisor didn’t want a female Soldier and had me diverted to an aviation unit.

While I didn’t always go where I wanted to go, I went with a servant heart, a teachable spirit, and the right attitude. I bloomed where I was planted with abundant opportunities -- every job, building on the next.

That obstacle only motivated me more to take that position in aviation and be the best. I quickly earned a leadership position there, became the first female to win the division NCO of the year, and distinction going forward that culminated with a nominative assignment at the Pentagon on the Department of Army staff. Along the way, I had the opportunity to serve alongside incredible men and women around the world.

The Army has come a long way in my almost 32 years of service. Guided by the core values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage, Soldiers today form the bedrock for how we serve our great nation every day. Today’s Army represents one of the most diverse organizations in the nation -- diversity in its people, ideas, beliefs and skills.

We have lifted boundaries and torn down barriers for all Soldiers over the last three decades during which I’ve served, but we still have work to do. As the nation’s largest war drew to a close, emerging threats continued to challenge our leaders and formation at a time when the operations tempo had only begun to resemble that of a peacetime force. Also, the change driven by cultural forces reflected in those who are in uniform today continue to steer our service to an even more diverse and inclusive workforce.

Our men and women develop invaluable skills like operating in complex environments under an immense amount of pressure. They develop emotional intelligence, leadership and managerial skills, loyalty, teamwork; they understand the value of family, diversity and inclusion; and they possess flexibility, how to be a change agent, networking skills, physical and emotional strength, confidence, and ability to communicate, just to name a few.

The contributions and achievements by Soldiers today illustrate the strength of a great nation. I’m excited to know there’s a generation of young, talented, motivated men and women who stand ready to step up into leadership roles that will shape our nation’s future in and out of uniform.

Just as JROTC first introduced and prepared me for a career of service with a whole world of unknowns ahead, my experiences and lessons gained through the military have me firmly planted, ready to confidently face similar unknowns ahead in the next season of my life. I’m thankful for the lifelong friends I’ve made along the way, they are worth their weight in gold. But more importantly, I believe God will put me exactly where I need to be and continue to equip me accordingly.