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    Perpetual Legacy Celebrated During Hispanic Heritage Month

    Perpetual Legacy Celebrated During Hispanic Heritage Month

    Courtesy Photo | Family photo (l to r) Mayra Estrada, Leah Sofia Estrada, Col. Angel Estrada and 2nd...... read more read more



    Story by Eleanor Prohaska 

    21st Theater Sustainment Command

    Angel Estrada thought he had it made at 21. He was earning double-time pay for working the night shift at his local grocery store in Puerto Rico. His only chores at home, where he lived with his mother, grandmother and brother, was to cut the grass and clean the car. Life was good—for a while.

    “Somehow I got fired,” said Col. Angel Estrada, 16th Sustainment Brigade Commander, 21st Theater Sustainment Command. A long way from that Puerto Rican grocery store, Estrada currently oversees U.S. Army support of Operation Allies Welcome, facilitating the life support and onward movement of tens of thousands of Afghan travelers airlifted to Germany and Kosovo after U.S. troop withdrawals in August, 2021.

    His mother, Ileana Lozano, a military police specialist in the Puerto Rico National Guard, set him on the path to manage the historic mission by encouraging him to join the Army. Eventually retiring as a staff sergeant with 32 years of service, Lozano is the foundation of a legacy, born in Puerto Rico, of military service that continues to inspire others and mold Soldiers today.

    As the U.S. Army observes National Hispanic Heritage Month in October, Estrada’s military career and his family’s exponential impact is a fitting example of how a diverse Army is a strong Army.
    With his mother’s encouragement and example, Estrada joined the National Guard to become a fire cannon direction specialist. In January, 1996 he left the warmth of Puerto Rico for frigid Ft. Sill, Oklahoma for basic training.

    “I’ve never been that cold in my life,” said Estrada. “It was painful cold.” He persevered through the climate and advanced individual training for another six weeks.

    “The transformation happened at AIT,” said Estrada. “Because I graduated number one in the class and it was my first time in the states speaking English. So, looking back I said, ’Why, if I graduated here number one at AIT, why can’t I do the same thing in college in Puerto Rico?'”

    He soon answered that question, graduating Cum Laude with a biology degree from the Metropolitan University in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, and receiving his commission in the Quartermaster Corps in 1999. Later in his career he earned an MBA from Trident University, and a master’s degree in national resource strategy from the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.

    He said his first assignment at Ft. Drum, New York, 10th Mountain Light Infantry Division, was one of the best things that could have happened to him. He thrived in the well-structured environment.

    “I had a lot of really good mentors from the unit, like my company commander,” he said, crediting that commander and numerous other mentors who counseled him, spent time with him and developed him, for helping him hone his own leadership skills and style. He also remembers his battalion commander’s wife taking his own wife, Mayra, under her wing when he was a captain stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany. “It really meant a lot,” said Estrada. “Now Mayra is doing the same thing for the captains’ wives. It has an ongoing effect.”

    The legacy of service and mentorship continues as Estrada and his wife make their family and extended military family a priority.
    “I tell the entire brigade, people first is nothing new,” he said. “And first of all is you. Am I taking care of myself as a person? Am I taking care of my family? Because if I can’t do that, how am I going to take care of a humongous family?”

    Humongous, in this case, means three organic battalions in Germany and two attached battalions in Poland, one active duty coming from Ft. Hood, Texas and another National Guard unit from Alabama, for a total of 3,200 Soldiers.

    “So it starts with my own family,” said Estrada. “And there have been ups and downs. There’s been three deployments, back to back, moments where we were about to break the relationship.”

    Army research shows military families face multiple challenges and Estrada leads by example by making the most of family advocacy resources such as military family life counselors. He reached out when he and his wife needed support to maintain their marriage.

    “I used it because I wanted to save the relationship and it worked,” he shared. ”And this is 11 years later and we are still strong with 18 years of marriage. And that’s what I tell my guys—yourself, your family, and then your unit and your personnel.” He encourages Service Members to use all of the resources available to them. “When you need help, you have to find help,” he said.

    In addition to emphasizing self-care and family relationships, Estrada has three basic lines of advice for his Soldiers: follow Instructions, know your people and be disciplined.

    “I made it to this rank and position right now by following instructions,” he said. “The Army is not hard. You are told to do something and either you do it or not.”

    Estrada’s Soldiers appreciate the way he provides those instructions and empowers them to achieve end state objectives.

    “Col. Estrada embodies the mission command philosophy,” said Maj. Michael McCrory, Executive Officer from 39th Movement Control Battalion, 16th Sustainment Brigade. “He gives clear guidance and provides left and right limits that enables successful operations. He allows for leaders and staff to solve problems as well as ensures the resources are provided for mission accomplishment. When faced with a tough operation, he reminds us to follow a few key guidelines: discipline, respect, care, empower, and trust!”

    Estrada’s commitment to knowing his people goes back to his days as a second lieutenant.

    “I had 26 people in my platoon,” he said. “I had to know them all.”
    Today, he sends hand-written birthday cards to all Soldiers E-7 and above in the brigade. According to Lt. Col. Matt Rivera, 39th Transportation Battalion and Task Force Home Command and Control Headquarters Commander, Estrada holds weekly MS Teams lunches with his commanders, no matter where he is. These “mentorship sessions” build camaraderie among the team. “I have no problem talking with my fellow commanders,” said Rivera. “We’re very open with one another. A lot of that is in direct correlation with Col. Estrada and how he engages with us and brings us together. He’s good at building teams.”

    Estrada made sure to interact with Soldiers thrust into the OAW real-world mission that demanded long hours and duties that were sometimes out of their comfort zones.

    “During Operation Allies Welcome he has 1,400 soldiers that are actively committed to the mission,” said Rivera. “And he would go to the LSAs [living support areas] and the DPC [deployment processing center] and talk to the Soldiers and try to gauge their morale, their welfare, how they were doing. He asked about when they had their last day off, are they getting rest? And he’d ask their thoughts.

    “So he would mention it to the commanders, if you can afford to give them [Soldiers] two days off a week instead of one, look into doing that. He definitely tried to increase reset time for the Soldiers after having conversations with them. He reinforced that the leaders, many who did not want to take days off, should do the same.”

    Mentoring, coaching and counseling are his passions and Rivera estimates he spends 75 percent of his time with people and the other 25 percent on everything else. He is committed to making sure his Soldiers are on track and realizing their potential.

    “Despite overseeing an organization spread across an entire continent, he prioritizes in-person interactions with his teams,” said Capt. Alex Lovely, 1st Inland Cargo Transfer Company, 39th Movement Command Battalion. “His calm, thoughtful, and positive attitude coupled with his openness to learn inspires trust and confidence throughout the team.”

    “It takes time, it takes effort, but then we create a legacy of those leaders doing that same thing for the rest of their careers,” said Estrada “And if they’re doing it, NCOs are doing it. Then those NCOs are going to be sergeant majors someday.”

    Of all the Soldiers he has mentored, Estrada may be particularly proud of a Quartermaster course graduate heading to the 25th Sustainment Brigade in Schofield Barracks, Hawai’i. His daughter, Ariana Estrada will graduate as a second lieutenant and follow in her father’s footsteps at the end of October.

    Proud of his Hispanic heritage, he recalled being told early in his career that he would not make it to the rank of major unless his English improved.

    “And I’m a company commander now,” he said. He advises fellow Hispanic Service Members or anyone whose first language is not English to not be discouraged.
    “If someone does not understand what you are saying, you ask them, ‘Do you understand what I am saying right now?’ Read more. Write more. That’s my self-development.”

    When asked to reflect on what he hopes his impact has been, he thinks about the people who have charted courses before him.
    “That a private or lieutenant or captain can reach out to me or my wife 20 years from now and can thank me for whatever I tried to do for them—like I have for many of my leaders who have already retired. That means your legacy continues.”

    Once again, Angel Estrada feels like he has it made.

    “I am proud to be a Hispanic colonel in the United States Army,” he said. “I’m proud to be the Knights Brigade commander. I am just proud to be a soldier.”



    Date Taken: 10.19.2021
    Date Posted: 10.19.2021 06:47
    Story ID: 407529

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