CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan - During a bitterly cold Christmas day in Afghanistan, Sgt. Rosa M. Quintero spoke on the phone at her desk with an unlikely caller on the other end, President Barack Obama.
Through hard work and dedication, Quintero, an administrative specialist with I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group (Forward), has had what most would call an amazing military career. She has climbed the ranks quickly and was recognized with a phone call from her commander in chief.
Quintero has made hard work a part of her, embodying the epitome of dedication and adopting it in many parts of her life.
Born in the Coahuila, Mexico, Quintero was shuffled from her hometown to Texas at the age of 7 and immersed into the U.S. lifestyle in Liberty Hill, Texas.
“I was in Mexico until second grade, and then I came to the U.S.,” said Quintero, 26. “I was emerged into all of these English speaking classes. It was kind of hard.”
With the help of a tutor, she came around rather quickly and adapted to the ways of the U.S. school system and the language.
Learning another language at such a young age was difficult. However, Quintero followed the example of her mother who fought and worked hard daily.
“My mom was a single parent. I saw how she sacrificed,” said Quintero. “She moved to a country where she didn’t even know the language, worked two to three jobs a day and still had time for us after work. She sacrificed everything so that we could be independent.”
With such a strong role model in her life, Quintero was focused and driven to do her best.
At the age of 8, her family relocated to her current hometown Austin, Texas, where she continued to put in the hard work needed to succeed. Her mother continued to work, and she continued to excel in school. She hit a snag in high school, like most high school freshmen do.
“I had a rough freshmen year, like really rough,” said Quintero. “My mom had to talk to me like, ‘What’s going on?’”
She weathered that storm and pushed through the rest of secondary school, while she also held down a full-time job.
Throughout her time in high school, her mother always expressed her feelings to see her daughter go to college and graduate. She knew with hard work what her daughter could accomplish.
With a work ethic that makes most people shudder and a bit of luck, she got her opportunity.
“I thought it would be really cool to go to (the University of) Texas,” said Quintero. “For the longest time UT was only taking the top 10 percent. I wasn’t top 10 percent. I applied to a bunch of colleges. It was actually one of my last choices.”
She was accepted to many different colleges, Texas was the acceptance that she received. Her tireless work got her to Texas and through a four and a half year degree program at the university’s School of Education.
Graduating with her bachelor’s degree during 2008, she held down a nanny job for a few months before deciding her next decision, a life altering one.
“I still couldn’t decided what I wanted to,” said Quintero. “I wanted to teach, but you still have other goals. You don’t want to have that job where, that’s it, you teach, you have to settle.”
Prior to the start of the 2009 school year, she made her decision to join the Marine Corps. She entered the delayed entry program during August and departed for recruit training during October.
“I didn’t want to get too old and not know what the military was like,” said Quintero. “My husband used to be in the Army, so I was really patriotic.
“I just decided it was now or never,” added Quintero. “My husband was supportive and comfortable with it, maybe not happy, not too thrilled, but very supportive from the get go.”
With his support and the support of the rest of her family, Quintero attacked the Marine Corps like she has everything else in her life, with a serious work ethic and determination to win.
“I entered the Marine Corps as a contract private first class, because of my degree,” said Quintero. “I graduated top in my class, and at my (military occupational specialty school) the honor graduate gets meritoriously promoted.”
Less than nine months into her Marine Corps career, Quintero was head and shoulders above her peers, having climbed to the rank of lance corporal before even hitting the operational forces.
At her first night, she took no time to separate herself even further. In a few short months, she went above and beyond her daily duties and was meritoriously promoted to the rank of corporal.
“I just continued to do what I did as a corporal,” said Quintero. “Nothing was too big of a challenge for me, we were so fast-paced too. I just took more responsibility. Our staff noncommissioned officer went to career course, so it was just corporals running the show.”
Her hard work paid off once again. By assuming those extra duties, she was recognized and meritoriously promoted to her current rank of sergeant, Aug. 2, 2011.
Quintero is now in Afghanistan where she continues to show how much effort she puts into everything she does by not only assuming her duties as the administration section’s noncommissioned officer-in-charge but also as the casualty and legal chief, duties usually completed by Marines of senior rank.
Her outstanding performance led to her being one of the few servicemembers afforded the opportunity to talk to her commander in chief, Pres. Obama.
“It was nice, but they keep you on hold for like 45 minutes, “ said Quintero laughingly. “The president was like, ‘Thank you for everything you do out there,’ and ‘Make sure you tell everyone me and Michelle hope they have a great Christmas.’
“He was nice,” added Quintero. “The best thing he said was, ‘Hey, I love Austin, that’s one of my favorite cities. Anyone from Austin is good in my book,’ then he started laughing. It was totally normal, like having a conversation with a normal person.”
Quintero has been meritoriously promoted to nearly all of her ranks, held a conversation with the President and is still currently serving her country in Afghanistan.
All of this in a little more than three years of military service, one can only imagine what she will do in another three years.