The way his bosses describe him, Daniel Chavez sounds like a typical up-and-coming corporate executive. He's a go-getter, a natural leader, a hard worker, and a tremendous asset to his organization. Only in this case, the organization is the U.S. Army's Fort Hood, and the product is well-trained soldiers. Command Sergeant Major Chavez, one of the Army's top-ranked noncommissioned officers, is the driving force behind his battalion's dedicated troops.
"I'm a business manager, managing a small business of a thousand employees, looking at issues such as personnel and administration and productivity," says Mr. Chavez. "I look at the Army as a place that molds young people to be better citizens. They benefit themselves educationally, morally, and physically while they serve their country."
His accomplishments in the Army have won him praise and promotions, earning him the respect of some pretty tough soldiers. "I can't say enough good things about him," says Colonel Jim Bondi, inspector general for the III Corps and Fort Hood, Texas. "He has integrity. He is a standard bearer and a true leader. He knows how to deal with people."
As the senior noncommissioned officer in his battalion, Mr. Chavez is responsible for the training and well-being of one thousand soldiers and their families at Fort Hood, the Army's largest installation. Since these soldiers range in age from 19 to 50, communication skills become critical on the job. His typical duties include reviewing training procedures to make sure they meet battalion standards, holding promotion boards for soldiers as they compete for sergeant and sergeant major positions, and serving as an adviser for his commanding officer. Mr. Chavez belongs to an elite group of senior noncommissioned officers and is one of a small number of Hispanics who have attained the Army's top enlisted rank.
Mr. Bondi, who served as Mr. Chavez's commander for more than a year, says he is a terrific role model for today's young soldiers. "He goes the extra mile," Mr. Bondi muses. "He strikes me as the kind of person who has always worked very hard to get where he is. … Many, many times I saw people walking in the door when he was walking out, and if they asked him for assistance, he would stop and take the extra time needed to deal with the issue."
Mr. Chavez, now 42, joined the Army in 1977 after finishing high school. He says he wanted a sense of purpose – and ended up staying for a career. "As a young Hispanic, growing up in a community that was impoverished, I saw a lot of people not even graduating from high school," he remembers. "My goal was to get my high school degree, get in the Army, and learn a skill. And I wanted a chance to travel and get out of my environment."
He married a year after he joined the Army, then decided to re-enlist because it seemed best for his family. His training specialty was administration, and in the succeeding years, he advanced steadily up the career ladder. During his 24 years in uniform, Mr. Chavez and his family have lived in such far-flung locations as Japan, Italy, and the Netherlands. He has also served at Fort Bliss, Texas, and Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. In recognition of his outstanding service, he has received the Defense Meritorious Service Award, Army Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, and Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.
"I have just tried to be the best that I can in each of the levels I have attained. Each time I achieved a promotion, I did my best at that level. Basically, I believe hard work pays off," Mr. Chavez says.
"People believe in him and in his trust and integrity," affirms Mr. Bondi, his former commanding officer. "He's a real team player. In any given business, and in our business of the Army, he is certainly an asset."
"I'm a business manager, managing a small business of a thousand employees," says Command Sergeant Major Daniel Chavez (right).
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