CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait –
From the front lines of the battlefield to the front of the classroom, one Basic Leader Course small group leader at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, is changing lives one class at a time.
Growing up in the Los Angeles suburb of El Monte, California, Staff Sgt. Jason Enriquez had big shoes to fill when looking up to his grandfather, Staff Sgt. Al Enriquez, who was in the Army for five years during World War II. A Purple Heart recipient, Golden Glove boxer and a graduate from the University of Southern California, Al Enriquez set the bar high on what it means to be an Enriquez.
The younger Enriquez was drawn to physical sports growing up. He joined the wrestling team at Arroyo High School his freshman year. Competing all four years, he wanted to be the 'aggressive Enriquez,' which ultimately led to setbacks in his youthful days.
"I used to get into trouble when I was younger," said Jason Enriquez. "I was hanging around the wrong crowds, going to parties, drinking, etc. I realized one day that I had to change or else I was going to either end up dead or just not live up to the name my grandfather made us out to be."
His parents also raised him to have the utmost respect for people.
"Dad always told me to listen more and talk less," said Enriquez.
To both honor his grandfather and to turn his life around, Enriquez decided to raise his right hand and take the Oath of Enlistment in the United States Army March 1, 2002. Enriquez served 11 years on active duty and has spent the last 6 years in the U.S. Army Reserve.
Aside from pleasing his grandfather and making a better person out of himself, Enriquez derives some of his passion from past leaders when he was in the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, carrying on their beliefs in what it means to be a noncommissioned officer.
"I have had great leadership; I have had leadership that has literally extended their lives for their Soldiers," said Enriquez. "I've seen it, and I have had them. They're no longer with us, so for me, a little bit is to honor them the right way and stand for what they stood for. That is the motivator. That is the passion. You have to have a passion, and you have to have that fire; I had the fire from day one to now."
Enriquez spent most of his time in the Army as an infantryman, but it was the passion to change lives that drove him to be an instructor at Basic Leader Course at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. He officially earned that title Jan. 19, 2019. This is his first cycle as a small group leader (SGL) at BLC and Enriquez had to prepare before he was ready to teach.
"The best way to prepare for something is getting your mind and body right, so I changed my diet," said Enriquez. "My diet is my fuel; my body is my temple, and if I put impurities in it, then I won't be able to maximize my potential."
Enriquez was determined to be the best he could be for his students by changing the little things in his daily life.
"On the first day, I connect with all my students in the simplest way," said Enriquez. "I learn their names. By learning their names, I earn their trust. They notice that I'm paying attention to them and each and every student in the classroom."
He uses each day as a new opportunity to help another Soldier develop into a great leader. He constantly places his students' needs before his own.
"It's not about you; it's about your Soldier," said Enriquez. "It's not about the SGL; it's about the student. Out of everything I teach them, I ask them to always remember that it's not about you anymore."
Staff Sgt. Daniel Kantorowicz , who worked with Enriquez through his first cycle as a SGL here, said he sees the passion of teaching through Enriquez's everyday actions.
"He takes the time to better himself by getting advice from other SGLs," said Kantorowicz. "Some NCOs are too self prideful to ask for help, not him."
Kantorowicz described Enriquez as one of his brothers, someone he can call when in need, and one of the best NCOs he knows.
"On a scale of one-to-10, he's an 11," said Kantorowicz. "He is a family man first and does everything he can for his two boys. If I was ever stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire, I would call him, and he would answer and be on his way to help me. I can't say that about every NCO. He is special."
Enriquez got the satisfaction of seeing his first BLC class graduate Feb. 19, 2019. He says he looks forward to his future classes and the opportunities to impact Soldiers' lives in the coming years.
"To reach one Soldier, just one, and to see that look they get and that light in their head come on like a switch," said Enriquez. "That's what it's all about. That's the best feeling in the world."