TARIN KOT, Afghanistan – An educational roadblock in a foreign country prompted a motivated young man to seek inspiration elsewhere. He turned to the Army National Guard.
U.S. Army Sgt. Jesus Hernandez was living in Mexico City, Mexico, with his family when he was denied admission to the Heroic Military Academy there. Disappointed, he returned to his home country and found other options with the California Army National Guard.
Hernandez now finds himself helping to close out the mission in Afghanistan.
Born in Orange County, CA., in 1987, Hernandez lived in California until the age of 12 when his family moved to Mexico City.
“There was only a certain amount of things you can do to progress in Mexico, so after the military academy said I couldn’t go to college in Mexico because I wasn't born there, I returned to the U.S.,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez decided to join the military shortly after returning to California.
“Being an American kid growing up in Mexico City, the idea of being a Soldier was important because I had this vision of an entire nation looking up to you,” said Hernandez.
Hernandez attended basic training at Fort Benning, GA., graduating in April 2007.
“The National Guard appealed to me because I liked the variety of working overseas and in the states, on a federal and state level,” Hernandez said. “Both are good because you get to help people.”
Hernandez was originally interested in paralegal or clerical positions until his recruiter described the duties of an infantryman.
“When my recruiter described the infantry, it sounded like something that would put me out in the people,” Hernandez said. “I like to talk and interact with people. I like to learn and ask a lot of questions.”
Hernandez deployed to Kosovo at the end of 2008. He was attached to an engineer company, and described the deployment as very fulfilling.
“I couldn’t believe I was getting paid to do that mission,” Hernandez said. “We made a difference. We got doctors and the medical corps where they needed to go so that they could help the local population.”
After Kosovo, Hernandez worked full time with the National Guard patrolling the border and conducting counter-drug operations. Prior to his unit preparing for deployment, Hernandez began working as an administration specialist.
Hernandez deployed with the 79th Infantry Brigade Combat Team to Multinational Base - Tarin Kot, Afghanistan, in July 2013, as the assistant administration non-commissioned officer. Some of his daily duties include keeping up with personnel movements, updating files, and retrieving mail for all personnel in Combined Team Uruzgan.
“As an infantryman, I had administration issues in the past,” Hernandez said. “Those past problems have helped me to not be lazy and keep paperwork updated. I get to help manage the soldier’s paperwork that determines their career, and that makes my job important and worthwhile.”
Hernandez has already received a commendation for his hard work less than a month since arriving in theater. He was presented with the commander’s coin, which is awarded for excellence in support of Combined Team Uruzgan.
“Sgt. Hernandez has consistently put the mission first, no matter how difficult the tasks may be,” said Capt. Cameron Larsuel, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 79th IBCT. “He is an inspiring young soldier who constantly improves his tactical and technical proficiency, and motivates other young soldiers who seek purpose and direction.”
Hernandez is currently applying for full time positions within the National Guard and plans to make the military a career. He will return home to San Diego to his wife, Gloria, and their two children, Alison and Aiden.