They are a special breed of soldiers: the medics stationed on the front lines who risk their own lives to save others. Known as 68 Whiskey, after their military occupational specialty code 68W, they are the first and often only responders in remote battlefronts, whose primary role as health care specialists in the U.S. Army is to provide medical treatment to wounded soldiers.
Senator Fernando Barcinas Esteves was a Whiskey 68 soldier who served in the often harsh, severe conditions of the Middle East desert and rugged mountain areas of Southern Asia. He believes it taught him the true meaning of leadership. “People throw out the word very liberally. We, especially in the army, take that word ‘leadership’ and really take it to heart,” Esteves said.
After graduating from Southern High School, he enlisted in the Army as a Combat Medic during the height of the Iraq invasion. He moved quickly through the ranks, and was promoted to Staff Sergeant in just five years. Esteves served multiple combat tours in a Stryker Brigade. He was deployed to Iraq from 2007 to 2010, and to Afghanistan from 2012 to 2013.
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“Having been an active duty soldier, and an active duty non-commissioned officer, when we affect peoples’ lives, we really affect peoples’ lives,” Esteves said. “We’re with them almost every day, day in and day out. It’s not something that’s part-time. We understand, and we fully embrace that we work 24/7. Really, what I developed was a healthy way to keep the professional relationships separate from the personal, but always have that professional sense and that importance of my duty and what I’m supposed to do as part of who I am personally 24/7, if that makes sense,” Esteves explained.
He did his job well enough to earn multiple accolades, such as West Point Soldier of the Year, MEDDAC Soldier of the Year, and Commandant’s List during leadership schools. Throughout his career he earned over 33 military citations and awards.
But after 13 years in the Army, Esteves decided to leave the full-time service. He moved back to Guam and opened a small business dealing with environmental compliance, but he continued to serve in the Guam Army National Guard, in the Medical Platoon of the 1-294th Infantry Regiment.
Returning to his roots, Esteves sees himself as a traditional son of the South. “My father taught me the value of hard work; he grew up as a dirt-poor farmer from Malesso,” Esteves said. But like many Guamanians, he and his immediate and extended families have close ties to the military. Most of his dad’s brothers also joined the service “to make something more of themselves.” But it was his mother who was the disciplinarian in the family. “My mom was very tough on us. It was tough growing up, we didn’t have much. We didn’t have the money to go out to eat as a family, so I learned to be frugal, I learned how to enjoy the simple things, and that’s pretty much how I carried my life,” Esteves revealed.
“I cut grass when I was 16 to make money on the side,” he continued. “I’ve done a lot of different things. I really come from humble beginnings, so I bring that mindset with me. I use everything that I’ve grown up with, all the tools I’ve developed that I can apply now to what I do.”
Through his often sparse and austere childhood, to his military service that required a rigorous discipline, Esteves said he has learned to become a straightforward person, who speaks his mind. “I’m an open book. Sometimes people would say I can be honest to a fault, but my intentions are pure. I always play devil’s advocate, because in my professional experience people’s lives are on the line. And if you don’t, or if you are afraid to speak up, then potentially lives can be lost. So I’ve kind of taken that and instilled that as part of who I am.”
Esteves believes being outspoken will be one of his trademarks as a senator. He does not expect to be one who dodges the tough issues for the sake of his political career, because he does not plan on being a lawmaker for the long haul. “When I bring that (attitude) into the professional environment, especially in the legislative process, I think its important. But it is who I am. I’m the guy who, you know if something doesn’t sound right I’ll call ‘em out. You know I’m that brutally honest individual, even if it reflects poorly on myself, because to me there’s nothing greater than the truth. All lies do is stress you and everybody around you out.”
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