FORWARD OPERATING BASE SWEENEY, Afghanistan, July 2, 2014 —
The sun-baked gravel on the landing zone here appeared as lava stones in a sauna. The shaded Conex container gave a deceptive invitation of a more comfortable working climate, the invitation proved to be nothing but a mirage.
Drenched in sweat, Army Sgt. Fabricio Granados, an Oakland, Calif., native, ignored the discomfort of the heat as he distributed water to the thirsty, putting self-interest aside to serve a higher cause.
Granados serves in power equipment and generator repair for Forward Support Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. His altruistic character and life experience have molded him into a versatile noncommissioned officer, his first sergeant said.
“He’s an awesome NCO, and he’s a quiet professional,” said Granado’s supervisor, 1st Sgt. Rebecca Schlegelmilch, a Munster, Indiana, native. “He has such a broad spectrum of knowledge because of his experience throughout life. He can do anything, and he does so much more than fix generators.”
Aside from being a generator mechanic, Granados is the NCO in charge of nine soldiers who support their battalion with a variety of skill sets, all of which he is competent in: four who work on weapons, one who works on night vision goggles, another who works on radios, a welder, an air conditioning mechanic and a generator mechanic.
Granados said he uses the skills he has accrued over the years to support a cause that is bigger than himself.
“Whatever we’re called to do, it’s in support of that company or battalion we’re attached to,” he said. “I know a little about everything, and I feel that’s why they’re always calling us to go on missions. They’re constantly drawing on our knowledge and expertise to complete the mission.”
Another facet of Granados’ job is to assist CH-47 Chinook helicopter pilots attach and detach sling loads that carry essential supplies to service members in remote areas of southern Afghanistan.
“It’s just another part of my job,” he said. “We get word from the support element back at base that food, water, fuel or whatever they need is coming, and then we make sure we’re ready to detach the load that they’re bringing or attach a load that they need to lift out.”
Granados, currently on his second deployment, has refined his skills over the years doing his job in the Army.
“My first deployment was with the 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment in Iraq, and I got a lot of really good hands-on experience there,” he said. “I really love my job with the Army. It’s been very good to me since I first joined eight years ago, so I’m just trying to be good to it.”
Granados is an optimistic and progressive leader who leads his soldiers by example, said Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Gallagher, a Detroit native who serves as the Forward Support Company’s section sergeant.
“It’s just something that’s part of him,” Gallagher said. “Whatever company he’s attached to, he makes it better. He’s a leader that the Army is going to need in the future. He’s a real go-getter.”
Granados said he has seen a variety of leadership styles in his Army career. One leader he had early on stands out for setting a foundation upon which he has built his own leadership skills, he said.
“Sgt. 1st Class Dexter Trotter was always there for me, and wherever he was, he was always doing the right thing,” Granados said. “I never saw him get into any kind of trouble. He was always fair and impartial when correcting soldiers, and he was always there to listen as a buddy and a peer. I always thought to myself, ‘That’s how I want to be.’”
Granados claims that his eagerness to serve stems from his youth, when he often helped his father out of necessity. Granados and his family are an example of gaining the American dream by coming to the United States from Central America with an ideal for a better life.
“My family emigrated from El Salvador to the U.S. on a work visa when I was 3 years old, and my dad was very eager to succeed in his new country,” Granados said. “I have six brothers, and I’m the oldest, so I had to grow up fast. When I was a teenager, my dad was working at a hotel in San Francisco, and in order to support the family, he would have side jobs on the weekends, so naturally I was his foreman.”
Granados said his father taught him to work, and perhaps more importantly, he taught him to value thoroughness and ownership of his work. “My dad would always say, ‘If you’re going to do something, do it right the first time,’” he said.
Granados said his favorite part of his job is mentoring young soldiers in the same way he was mentored by his father and his noncommissioned officers.
“I love to show my soldiers that the military is good, and I try to instill in them a good work ethic, because all in all, my squad is a reflection of me.”