Story by Michael Strasser on 09/06/2019FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Sept. 6, 2019) -- A few hours before his tour as the Fort Drum garrison senior enlisted adviser ended on Sept. 4, Command Sgt. Maj. Ryan Alfaro was seated on a panel talking about housing issues on post.
It would be one of his last official duties at his last assignment before retirement, but it has always been his first priority as a senior noncommissioned officer to take care of the Soldiers, family members and civilians who live and work at Fort Drum.
At the change of responsibility ceremony, Col. Jeffery Lucas, Fort Drum garrison commander, said that there is no detail beyond the command sergeant major's purview.
Access control points, housing and barracks, sponsorship, the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program, fitness centers, ranges, civilian and military education are just a few items on a mile-long checklist that has the senior enlisted adviser's attention.
"In short, the command sergeant major has to do two thing: Accomplish the mission and take care of Soldiers," Lucas said. "Command Sgt. Maj. Alfaro has done that, and he's done it quite well, and he's always done it with a smile."
Oftentimes, the job of a garrison commander is compared to that of a city mayor. Alfaro likened the position of garrison command sergeant major to that of a city manager.
"The reason why I feel there's a similarity is because if there's ever a concern or an issue or we need clarification on something, I will seek out that issue and try to fix it or find the resources to fix it for our garrison commander and deputy to the garrison commander," he said.
Alfaro also found himself an active participant in many of the community events. He didn't shy away from getting head-to-toe dirty at the annual Mountain Mudder, swinging for the fences at the Commanders vs. Sergeants Major softball game or running the inaugural Memorial to Monument 11-miler last year.
"I think the best way I can show support for something is by doing it," Alfaro said. "If Soldiers see me doing these things, then maybe they won't mind doing it, too. If you look at all the events that our BOSS representatives put together, I'm going to be there because I want to support my team."
Before arriving at Fort Drum, Alfaro said that he heard all the rumors and jokes about it being a "hardship tour" or an assignment to be avoided. So, admittedly, he wasn't sure if he was going to enjoy being stationed here. Snow was something Alfaro didn't experience in the Mojave Desert, having previously served at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California.
"When we first got here, we signed for our house, and the very next day we got three feet of snow," Alfaro recalled. "Coming from the desert, it was tough. I'm from Oklahoma and my wife is from Texas, so we had to go out and buy a whole bunch of cold-weather boots and big, puffy jackets."
However, the charms of North Country life quickly grew on him.
"It's very pretty out here, and the people up here in the North Country are very friendly and welcoming," Alfaro said. "Within a year and a half, we bought a house here, and then a year later we decided we were going to retire here."
Alfaro and his wife, Ramona, are joining an ever-growing number of retirees who are ending their military careers at Fort Drum and choosing to remain in the North Country for the next chapter of their lives.
"It was an easy decision for us, and it was based off the great community and just all the things there are to do here," he said. "It's said all the time, but Fort Drum is like the hidden gem of the Army the best kept secret, it really is. The North Country has it all. You get the four seasons, even though one may be a bit harder than the rest of them."
It's a duty station Alfaro thought he would have dodged his entire career, but now he said it is bittersweet making that transition away from active-duty service at Fort Drum.
"I will tell you that it's the best job I've had in my 25 years in service," he added. "The way the garrison team supports the 10th Mountain Division is amazing, and if I were given another chance to stay two and a half more years in this position as garrison command sergeant major, I would jump on it in a second."
Lucas described the change of responsibility ceremony as a celebration of continuity.
"As career noncommissioned officers, both of these men epitomize why, in so many ways, NCOs are the backbone of the Army," he said. "And if the backbone doesn't connote continuity that which all else depends on I'm not exactly sure what else does."
During the ceremony, Lucas welcomed Command Sgt. Maj. Roberto Munoz and his wife, Melissa, to the Fort Drum team.
"We look forward to having you aboard and having you a member of our community," he said. "We all look forward to serving with you."
Munoz thanked Lucas and Alfaro for making his family's transition to Fort Drum a welcoming experience.
"We look forward to the working with the garrison's and division's Soldiers and civilians, and serving the great Soldiers and their families, while continuing to make Fort Drum the best installation in the Army," he said.
Munoz previously served as the senior enlisted adviser for 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Vilseck, Germany. His earliest assignment was at Fort Drum, when he served as a platoon radio and telephone operator for C Company, 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment. Munoz has deployed three times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and once to Sinai and Afghanistan.