November is officially designated as Military Family Appreciation Month, providing an opportunity for the Army and the nation to recognize the commitment and resilience of Army Families and their critical contributions to Army readiness.
Army families are made up of the American communities, they are compassionate, fun-loving, and devoted husbands, wives, children, and pets that are not that different from civilian families. These families just work around demanding careers that creates a different lifestyle. We honor the unique sacrifices and challenges families make to support their loved ones who serve.
Command Sgt. Maj. Oracio Pena and Master Sgt. Mistie Pena are an example of a dual military family. The Pena’s have been married for 8 years and have a blended family, with four kids. They have worked through multiple permanent change of station and deployments with the support of family, friends, and the Army.
“Being married is hard, being in the military is hard, and being dual military can definitely be more challenging, but it’s doable — it’s worth the effort if you work together and are a team,” Mistie said, “You have to work together to be successful.”
The Pena’s have had multiple deployments during their marriage that has impacted their family. Master Sgt. Pena found these separations extremely taxing as a Unit Supply Specialist in the U.S. Army, she still needed to work and take care of her small children while having greater insight as the dangers down range having been deployed herself.
“Because I am [Mistie] in the Army, I knew what was going on down range and understood things other military spouses may not have. I knew what and how to look for the dangers. “Their [ Oracios Unit] perimeter was overrun, and I didn’t hear from him for over 40 days, it was extremely difficult, but I couldn’t stop working or taking care of my babies,” Mistie said.
Command Sgt. Maj. Pena missed several milestones of his young children’s lives while serving abroad.
People are the Army’s top priority, and the Army recognizes that service members’ families are the backbone of our military and face unique challenges. That holds especially true in a remote and isolated installation.
“Being dual military has been challenging—The National Training Center has been the best duty station for our family, as far as support, from Maj. Gen. David Lesprance to Brig. Gen. Curt Taylor and the Post Command Sgt. Maj. William Justice, have been extremely supportive on families and we could not have asked for a better opportunity than to be stationed here at Fort Irwin,” Command Sgt. Maj. Pena said.
“I whole handedly believe the NTC is the premiere installation when it comes to taking care of families, and we’ve been to some great installations in our career that supported our needs,” Command Sgt. Maj. Pena said.
Command Sgt. Maj. Pena acknowledged that The Army is different from when they enlisted. Saying that he was a counterproductive leader. Pena said he grew and today he listens to what soldiers need.
“Long before the people first strategy came out Army wide, knowing the challenges soldiers face daily, we were already living that,” Master Sgt. Pena said. “You face the same challenges that your soldiers face, and you have the ability to give back and be an example for those younger soldiers for their careers and families.”
Both the Pena’s agreed that young soldiers and families should find a mentor to help them through challenging times. And taking responsibilities for your failures and celebrating your successes was key to being successful in the Army as a Soldier and a Military Family.
“What’s made me a better leader is —I say it time and time again—I’m not the same person I was when I became a Sergeant Major,” Command Sgt. Maj. Pena said, “my babies and my family, they make me a better person, in every aspect, as a father, a husband, and a leader.”
The Pena’s know being a military family is not for everyone, but they love it.
The Department of Defense is committed to improving the quality of life for our military families. The National Training Center and Fort Irwin’s priorities remains housing spousal employment and childcare.