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NEWS | Oct. 8, 2021

Strength in Heritage: Shaping the Future through Strong Values

By Sgt. Christopher Saunders Missouri National Guard

Command Sgt. Maj. Javier Acosta, Missouri Army National Guard State Command Sergeant Major, grew up far from his current Missouri residence. He spent much of his youth on the border between Texas and New Mexico, near El Paso, playing in the desert mountains. He also assisted his father with animal husbandry, for the dean of New Mexico State University.
“My Hispanic heritage is very important to me,” said Acosta. “I take pride in the positives associated with my heritage, characteristics such as hardworking, family-oriented and strong loyalty.”
Acosta says loyalty was the biggest positive for him, its right there in the Army values. Acosta’s family has a long history of military service. His father was a member of the Navy and served in the Korean War. His uncle served in the Vietnam War with the Army, and his older brother served in the Marines.
Acosta’s father said little about his experiences in the military, but what he was very open about were the military values he gained from his service.
“These values were something that were very much a part of him and he instilled them in me,” said Acosta.
When Acosta was in high school, his brother joined the Marines. Though only three years older than him, he remembers the respect and pride his brother carried and this had a big impact on Acosta. He got a lot out of seeing his brother serve, and the stories his brother told. In 1984, while still in high school, Acosta joined the active-duty Army through the delayed entry program, and left for basic training in 1986. His initial military occupational specialty (MOS) was an OH-58 helicopter mechanic and aerial observer.
Although Acosta had many influences to join the military, he says his primary reason for joining was simple, helicopters. While in high school, Acosta took part in a distributed education program, where for half of the school day he worked for the air operations department with the border patrol in El Paso, TX.
“I got to go on a lot of helicopter rides up and down the border, and saw what goes into maintenance and operations,” said Acosta. “I absolutely loved it.”
Acosta’s active-duty service took him all over the country and abroad, including Texas, Alaska, Kansas and Germany, to name a few. After nine years, now married with five children, he thought he was ready to get out of the military and go to school.
A couple years out of the Army, a close friend Acosta served with in Texas, said that he had joined the Missouri Army National Guard. As it turned out, a lot of people Acosta had previously served with had done so as well. So, in 1996, Acosta decided to join the Missouri Army National Guard.
“In the end I joined for the people, I knew there was great leadership in the state,” said Acosta.
After serving for about a year and a half, an opportunity to be a full-time technician at Whiteman Air Force Base became available. From there he started working in aviation maintenance as a mechanic. Soon after, he progressed to team lead, then to quality control, and eventually a supervisor. Acosta says it was about when he became a supervisor that his Guard career really started taking off. He became a First Sergeant, a Battalion Sergeant Major then a Brigade Sergeant Major.
Acosta has taken part in numerous deployments while in the Guard. He says one of the most rewarding parts of serving is seeing people succeed.
“There are particular moments that are dear to me, such as when we would return home from deployment. You see the faces of the people who had a challenging deployment, and they make it through. The love and respect you see as they are reunited with their families, those moments are very special to me,” said Acosta.
Acosta says he also gets a lot of joy in seeing people challenge themselves through competitive events such as the best warrior competition, or special skill schools like Air Assault or Pathfinder.
“When you see people endure through the sacrifice and struggle, and they come out the other side having succeeded. That’s the biggest joy for me, to see people overcome those challenges.”
As a leader, Acosta says the most difficult part of his position is the unnecessary losses due to accidents or suicide. He says it’s these moments that are very hard and force you to ask yourself if you could have done more to help.
In 2020, Acosta was chosen to be the Missouri State Command Sergeant Major. When he accepted his new role, his short-term goals were to inspire people, and to leave the Guard in a better climate.
“I want people to feel inspired to stay in the Guard, to feel empowered and valued,” said Acosta.
He believes one of his strongest qualities is his sincere desire to help people succeed. His advice to anyone who is thinking of joining the Guard is to give it a chance. If someone is apprehensive, he would explain that the Guard is an inclusive and diverse group of people from all backgrounds and cultures. The benefits of joining the Guard go beyond bonuses or education incentives, it’s about being a part of a something bigger than yourself.