KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — One year ago, President Barrack Obama stated in a proclamation for Women’s History Month, “While we have made great strides toward equality, we cannot rest until our mothers, sisters and daughters assume their rightful place as full participants in a secure, prosperous and just society.”
Securing her place in the U.S. Army is Sgt. Cassandra Bustillo, a motor transport operator with the 541st Transportation Company, who says she is determined to prove herself capable of doing anything she sets her mind to.
“I think some people put too much perception on being male and female, instead of just being a soldier,” said Bustillo. “What really matters is how well the soldier—male or female—performs. A soldier is defined from within.”
Bustillo is currently on her second combat tour to Afghanistan. Deployed to Forward Operating Base Shindand, she is currently working outside of her military occupational specialty.
“I like the Army, and I’m dedicated to it—no matter what I am tasked to do,” she said. “Last deployment I was a gunner, and I never expected that. I thought that was (solely) for the Infantry. This year, I am working (in the) intelligence (section).”
Her intellect combined with confidence and willpower has helped her to numerous feats. The 21-year-old Soldier has won several company and battalion-level boards, and she joined the Noncommissioned Officer Corps in January with just three years of military service.
Bustillo was also selected to compete at an upcoming Best Warrior Competition in Kandahar where she will be the only female soldier to represent Task Force Provider.
“Being the only female gives me an extra sense of pride,” she said. “I’m just really competitive. People shouldn’t let their (sex) affect them mentally; you should never be scared or think you can’t win just because your opponents are males.”
Bustillo said she is determined to overcome, and added that she can accomplish any mission simply by setting her mind to it.
“I’m just really competitive,” she said. “And being a female has nothing to do with it. You have to have a lot of dedication and passion; you have to want it. When people say ‘I can’t,’ they have made their first mistake.”
The Somerton, Ariz., native said a part of her strength comes from her experiences as a child.
“I came from a traditional family where females stay at home,” she said. “Growing up I would always compete against my (male) cousin and would get into trouble because I was a girl and was told I couldn’t do it. It never made any sense to me. I was always out to prove myself—that I can do anything. Anytime someone said I couldn’t do something I had to prove them wrong.”
Bustillo is continuing to outshine her competition, but says that in reality, she just wants to do the very best she can. She encourages others to never place limitations on themselves.
“Once you reach your goal, try to surpass it or set a new goal,” she said, “It’s the only way to keep advancing to the top. Don’t let your sex be a reason why you can’t do something. If that was true, I wouldn’t have come this far.”