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Colorado field artillery unit welcomes first female senior enlisted leader

By Staff Sgt. Zach Sheely, Colorado National Guard | CONG, TAG, MDB, 169 | Jan. 31, 2020

One of the Colorado Army National Guard’s most distinguished units made history again during a Jan. 4 change-of-responsibility ceremony as it welcomed a new senior enlisted leader.

Deborah Manzanares became the first female command sergeant major of a COARNG field artillery unit – and one of the first women to fill that role in a field artillery unit, at large – when she accepted the colors of the 3rd Battalion, 157th Field Artillery Regiment.

Manzanares received the battalion guidon from U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jason Stuchlik, 3-157th Field Artillery Battalion commander, during the ceremony held at the Regional Training Institute in Fort Carson. This customary flag-passing ritual was held before the battalion formation and a legion of family and friends, officially validating Manzanares as the units’ senior enlisted leader.

“I am thrilled and grateful for this opportunity, and I am very proud to be in this unit and the artillery community,” she said. “It’s exciting. I love to Soldier; it’s one of my favorite things in life.”

Manzanares, an Army veteran of more than 30 years, has served throughout the COARNG. She acknowledged that when she began her career in 1988, not all Soldiers had the same opportunities as today.

“It’s exciting, and it’s significant,” she said of her new role. “Not every job within the field artillery has always been open to female Soldiers. Even the idea of a woman in the leadership chain is relatively new.”

The battalion command sergeant major serves as the senior Non-commissioned Officer within a unit and advises the commander on all issues related to the enlisted ranks. Manzanares said her selection for this position shows battalion Soldiers a leadership opportunity to pursue, regardless of their gender. She credited her tenacity and the “power to ask” for her selection over what she called “a board of great field artillery Soldiers.”

“Throughout my career, I have often had to ask for my next challenge,” she said. “You have to be willing to take on more responsibility and also be able to express that to your leadership.”

The mission of the 3-157th FAB is to destroy, defeat, or disrupt the enemy with rocket fire from the High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System. Operating this sophisticated weapon system is an occupation that Manzanares referred to as “precision fires.”

“But we’re also in the people business,” she said. “My door will always be open for counsel, feedback and brainstorming.”

Manzanares said being a Soldier, a Soldier’s spouse and a Soldier’s parent has instilled empathy and a sense of humility in her, attributes she cited among the tenets of her leadership philosophy.

“We aren’t going to shy away from standards or discipline at all,” she said. “But, sometimes, it’s good to pause for a second and look at the situation through a different lens. Yes, we have a code to live by, but sometimes things happen; we have to be humble leaders.”

Manzanares inherits the command sergeant major position of the 3-157th from Command Sgt. Maj. John Assaad, who has served the majority of his 26-year Army career in the 3-157th.

Assaad will move on to serve as the command sergeant major of the 169th Fires Brigade, Colorado Army National Guard.