BANDUNG, Indonesia (6/22/09) – Staff Sgt. Gerald Fernandez never stops moving. In between radio calls from his commander and the endless requests for supplies, the Guam National Guard Soldier is always on the go.
“I always do everything I can to get Soldiers what they need,” he said. “My job is about taking care of them.”
His job is the supply non-commissioned officer in charge for 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment of the Guam Army National Guard.
“I like seeing Soldiers get what they need,” he said. “It is gratifying to know that I can do that.”
The Talofofo, Guam native also said he feels privileged to be an NCO and he does his best to provide “the best to his Soldiers and those who fail at that task don’t deserve to be an NCO.”
Fernandez’s Army career began only seven years ago after his brother put forth some “very good arguments,” he said.
“He keep telling me that the prices were cheaper at the exchange and I only had to do it one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer; so I went and joined the National Guard,” he said.
But for Fernandez, one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer was simply not enough. Shortly after completing his training, he was accepted into the Army’s Active Guard and Reserve program.
“Joining the Army was a life changing event,” he said. “That transition from civilian to Soldier was awesome. If I knew it was going to feel like that, I would have done it 20 years ago.”
Now, 42, the NCO lives and breathes the Army and attributes his success to learning from the leaders he served with.
“He’s a good guy,” said Staff Sgt. Rudely Retying, squad leader, assigned to the 1st Bn., 294th Inf. Regt., Guam National Guard with a thump on Fernandez’s back and a laugh, “but we are all good guys.”
That kind of joking and camaraderie is present in everything the unit does and is one of the reasons Fernandez said he loves the Army so much.
“We are all family in Guam. We all know each other and our families know each other. It is a small island.”
Getting off the island and traveling around the globe has provided Fernandez with many opportunities to work with various armies and learn from each of them.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work with so many different countries and it is interesting to see how they work. We all basically need the same information; it is just a different way of communicating it.”
Fernandez is currently working with the Tentara Nasional Indonesia Ankatan Darat, or Indonesian army as part of Garuda Shield 09. GS09 is a two-week exercise which brings together Soldiers and Marines from nine nations to train on United Nations mandated ground-level tasks and it is the Global Peace Operations Initiative capstone event for the Asia Pacific Region. The exercise will conclude June 29.
“They are so laid back,” said Fernandez of the TNI-AD, fully realizing the irony in that statement.
There is a certain mellow attitude which accompanies the reputation of the Soldiers in the Guam National Guard. Their smiles come easy, and their eagerness to welcome you into their families easier.
“It was an adjustment to go from the U.S. Army way of doing things to a slower pace. But this is what this experience is all about; learning from each other and working together. They are so great to work with and we are like family now,” he said.
Working together also means learning together. During the course of the exercise, Fernandez said he hopes he can help his TNI-AD counterpart become a better supply officer and vice versa.
“I don’t understand some of the stuff they do and why, but it works for them,” he said. “All I want to do is share my knowledge and gain theirs.”
One thing Fernandez said he was learning was the difference in the roles of an NCO in the two countries.
“Their NCOs are very different from ours,” he said. “They have officers doing a lot of things that are reserved for NCOs in the U.S. Army.”
In Indonesia, the role of an NCO is mainly training and they have very little contact with their officers, said TNI-AD Sgt. Maj. Beni. They do very little office work and do not see much of the larger picture.
That role is slowly changing.
Just recently members from the U.S. Army, Pacific traveled to the Infantry Center and taught Indonesia’s first Warrior Leader’s Course.
“I like it,” said Beni. “I think it will benefit our NCOs.”
Fernandez says he hopes the TNI-AD NCOs will slowly begin to take on more responsibility and he will get to work with more of them in the future.
“There is nothing like being an NCO,” he said. “There is nothing more rewarding.”
By Christina Bhatti
U.S. Army, Pacific Public Affairs