FORT STEWART, Ga. – Sgt. Francis I. Fonseca said if you don’t have determination you won’t make it in the Army.
The combat medic said it was determination to prove she could make it that drove her to enlist at age 36 in 2008, and that it has been determination that has since driven her to excel at leadership positions—roles in which she was entrusted long before she was promoted into the Non-commissioned Officers Corps.
Fonseca, a native of Ponce, Puerto Rico, currently serves as the evacuation platoon sergeant in Company C, 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. The leader took time out of her duties of guiding squad leaders and taking care of soldiers, Feb. 27, to talk about her blossoming Army career.
“I come from a military background,” Fonseca said. “My father was a career counselor [and was] always trying to convince me to join the military. I think I was always trying to do the opposite of what your parents tell you. As I got older, [I realized] it’s a really good option, especially with all the benefits that the military offers.”
In the years leading up to her decision to enlist, Fonseca said she worked as a supervisor and raw materials buyer for a medical device manufacturing company. She said she also attended college full time in the evenings in an accelerated business administration program.
Fonseca said once she earned her bachelor degree from Universidad del Turabo she was ready to embrace the challenge of becoming a soldier.
The combat medic said basic training and advanced individual training were difficult at times but enjoyable. Fonseca said the high point of AIT was marrying Gerald Vazquez, her boyfriend of five years.
Once she completed training in December 2009 Fonseca said she was stationed at Fort Stewart, Ga., with 4th IBCT. As a newly graduated trainee, she said she was forced to hit the ground running.
“We [attended] NTC and then we deployed to Iraq in June,” the leader said. “I was scared at first … [it was my] first deployment [and time] away from home, away from family. I had the butterflies going on. But once we were there and we … established what our mission was going to be everything was pretty smooth-flowing.”
Fonseca said she began the deployment working in her battalion’s aid station, and ended up being in charge of the whole operation by the time the unit redeployed in June 2010.
“I think it was a really great opportunity,” Fonseca said of the deployment. “It was one of those learning experiences that you’ll never forget, you know, being in a whole different country in that situation. I’m grateful that I went.”
Fonseca said when she redeployed she was put in charge of the evacuation section. The combat medic said she attended Warrior Leader Course a few months later and was promoted to sergeant, Jan. 1, 2012.
Fonseca said her success has largely been due to her determination and resilience, but also to her maturity.
“I came in as a [specialist] because I had a bachelor’s degree and the age difference kind of set me apart,” the leader said. “I was always relied upon from the senior NCOs … to get the missions complete. I think that kind of played a role of me wanting to get my [sergeant rank] as soon as possible because I was pretty much doing the job anyways.”
Fonseca said she’s had positive experiences as a leader.
“When you look at the civilian and the military, it’s just totally different,” the combat medic said. “I supervised when I was in the civilian sector but you can’t compare it because over here you’re … totally responsible for [your soldiers]. Even on the weekends you’re checking up on your soldiers [and] making sure they’re squared away; it’s so different, but it’s very rewarding.”
Fonseca said the biggest challenge she has faced in the military thus far was being apart from her husband throughout the deployment. The combat medic said her husband was supportive, though, and worked with her to help them maintain a healthy relationship.
Fonseca said it has been less difficult proving herself to male counterparts.
“I haven’t had any issues,” Fonseca said. “At the end of the day … they respect you … because you give your 100 percent just like they do. And just because I’m a female it doesn’t mean that I’m going to … not give my 100 percent.”