“My Army Profession Arrived Unexpectedly

Often we hear about our enlisted Soldiers, however here are the comments left by Maj Mark Loyola upon his congratulation to Staff Sgt. Melissa A. Buchholz, on her selection to particpate in the 2011 Quality of Life, Family Readiness Conference and Nataional Capitol Reenlistment Ceremony.

Maj Mark Loyola

“Thank you for sharing your story with us. Above all else, thank you for your service. There are prospective Soldiers in the making and reaching them with your story is critical. Our experience serves as a platform to offer insight when needed. I intend to follow suit with my experience below.

“My Army profession arrived unexpectedly. Yet my military service provided me some of the most profound experiences I will always relish. During the summer of 1995 I attended a couple of classes and worked at the University of Dayton housing residential services. It is there where an Army captain recruited me to join the US Army on a fulltime basis. College is where I received my initial exposure to why I serve. But my reasons for serving continue to evolve where I began with core values and developed my principles. The “Be All You Can Be” slogan was an advertisement. Now I realize it is a way of life.”

“A typical day consisted of cleaning residential facilities then attending class afterwards. Upon my return from class, which was around 8PM, my dorm room telephone rang constantly. It was as if the ROTC cadre stationed a ‘spotter’ outside my room to report my status! Keep in mind that I did not have an answering machine being an under-equipped college student. At first, I tried to ignore the contact but after 20 rings I eventually answered the call. “Answering the call” was simply a foreshadowing of numerous times that I would respond to multiple CONUS and OCONUS missions.

I simply could not say that there is one specific reason why I elected to join the Army and serve my country. What I can submit is the factors prompting me to volunteer came gradually and culminated with my decision. Ultimately, all the signs directed me for service to our Nation. I mentioned that college is the first place I noticed anything Army related. Yes, I was fascinated with rappelling from our student building. Yes, the Army gray PT cotton uniform appealed to me. And yes, firing multiple weapons was another attraction. But in order to truly develop a sense of service, I had to lose my freedom. The Fort Knox Camp Challenge drill sergeants (DI) gladly assisted in that milestone.

Before reporting to Fortress Knox, the captain explained that Camp Challenge was a non-obligation trial to experience Army life. What did I have to lose? I would attend close to two months of cadet training and receive background that I could insert on my post college resume. If I did not believe the military was conducive to me I simply would not sign an acceptance letter. Conversely, if I found the Army as an opportunity to grow then Uncle Sam would subsidize the last two years of my college tuition.

The treasure that I discovered at Knox was not inside the gold vaults but within myself. Although the DI’s engaged in disciplined treatment of the cadets while losing basic freedoms and adhering to a regimented life, we gained so much more. Lessons in teamwork, appreciation for life, cohesion, loyalty, moral strength, and all of the current values that strengthen our Army culture resonated with me. Fort Knox was the first place where I definitely understood that a component to living was self-discovery. I realized serving in the Army was a place where I could conquer my fears whether it be physical or mental. Most important, the Army provided me a platform to share my lessons-learned with others.

Active Duty was one of the most fulfilling times in my life. I had the honor of serving in the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), 18th Medical Command, Korea, and completed my active duty obligation with the 82d Airborne Division. Above all else, I served with the best Soldiers in the world. Whether operating on a mundane duty such as battalion staff duty officer or deploying to the Middle East out of Green Ramp with my paratrooper brothers, I knew my reason for serving meant that I needed to serve my Soldiers to my maximum potential. Not only would we possess common experiences conducting missions in austere environments but it also meant sharing a variety of insight, experiences, fellowship, and purpose with them. The Army simply reinforced my perspective to remain loyal to my troops. Subsequently, the values would transfer to my current duty as a Department of the Army civilian.

I always knew that I would arrive at a decision point to separate from the Army. The catalyst to depart revolved around the need to stabilize. Ultimately, I placed my Family as the primary reason to ETS yet remained as part of the team in an Army Reserve capacity. This meant dealing with the upheaval of learning new skill sets and integrating into the civilian sector. What I realize more than ever is how I was building upon the background and applying the experiences in another setting. The ability to adapt and stay flexible in adverse predicaments was essential to delving into the private sector. Additionally, applying fundamental directions such as a task and purpose provided clarity to the civilian personnel that I led. Working as an Army civilian gives me the time to practice military traditions while staying connected to the troops I served with on active service. Having the opportunity to take care of troops albeit in a civilian capacity provides me rewards that I will always relish.

The notion that Army officers always continue to learn is relevant in military settings and certainly in civilian workforce environments. Whether I served a 20-year active duty service or combine the active component duties with federal service, I found one common denominator. That is pursuing mastery of myself. I look at my service as a reciprocal relationship where working with Soldiers and other joint brethren offers me chances to teach and opportunities to grow personally. I am in a setting where I can coach and mentor Soldiers while improving myself. I serve my country to be all I can be.”


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