By Sgt. Joline Ngo, 95th Training Division Public Affairs NCOIC
FORT SILL, Okla. – “Never give up.” That’s the motto of a woman who has devoted herself to serving her Country. A woman who continues to fight for what she believes in, even when the odds are stacked against her.
1st Lt. Jessica Melizon Romero, the Executive Officer for Delta Company, 2/413, 95th Training Division, has served seven years in the U.S. Army Reserve and five years in the U.S. Army’s active component.
“In all honesty, I joined for selfish reasons,” said Romero. “A chance at college and to just get away.”
She explained that she believed her parents are great people and did the best they could, being immigrants from the Philippines and Ecuador. They were the first generations to make the U.S. their home.
Despite their efforts, she remembers her family constantly moving around to find a home and struggling in high school, being a rebellious teenager.
She eventually ended up getting kicked out of her school district and had to enroll into a continuation school to get enough credits to obtain her diploma.
“This is when the reality of my future began to settle in,” she said. “I remember a few recruiters came to my school and talked about how enlisting can earn you the right to go to college for free after serving.”
Romero said she recalls thinking that it would be “cool” if she were the first person in her family to earn a college degree, but going to college at the time seemed like an impossibly funded task for her. That was when she decided to join the U.S. Army.
As Romero’s career progressed, she decided she wanted to become a drill sergeant. “I had a great time under the hat,” she said. “Every time I donned it, I made it a point to try my best, to live up to the standard that it represents.”
Drill sergeants are responsible for one of the most crucial parts of an Army Soldier’s development. They serve as mentors and leaders to new recruits by developing their confidence, physical fitness and skills needed to succeed in the Army.
“Down in Fort Leonard Wood, my first cycle changed me,” said Romero. “I truly believe it was what I needed to help tune in on my leadership skills.”
She said during her time as a drill sergeant, she was able to learn so much from her peers. She described her experience as a fulfillment of a promise she made to herself, of passing down her knowledge and experience, just as her drill sergeants did for her.
Following her drill sergeant journey, Romero decided it was time to further her scope to make a positive change in the U.S. Army and applied for Officer Candidate School.
“Whenever I hear others chastising the Army, I always ask them, ‘What are you doing to change it?’” she said.
She explained that it was not an easy process for her. At first, she was disqualified due to some medical issues and felt like there was no hope. She decided to get aggressive, to elevate her enlisted career and refine her leadership skills, also, while working on a waiver for OCS.
The waiver took about a year to process and she had to reapply for OCS all over again. That, in itself, took another year to process. She was finally notified that she had been selected.
“I was on trail in Fort Leonard Wood,” said Romero. “I remember being so sad–I knew that my time as a drill sergeant was coming to an end.” She described it as bittersweet, but was excited to begin this new chapter.
Romero has competed in six Best Warrior Competitions and recently won the title of the 95th Training Division Commissioned Officer of the Year.
“A few years ago, I had the great privilege to compete for Drill Sergeant of the Year. Now that it has been opened to officers, I couldn’t turn down the challenge.”
The division’s commanding general, Brig. Gen. Susie Kuilan, recalls visiting the 12-mile ruck march event and was blown away when she saw Romero come in second.
She said she did not expect such a small person to make rucking with a thirty-five pound load look so easy. Kuilan was excited to announce her the division’s Commissioned Officer of the Year.
“Males are stronger and faster, in most cases. This is just science,” said Romero. “What changes from individual to individual, is the amount of HEART that he or she is willing to put forth and the amount of effort to become successful.”