Calexico native becomes accomplished Army soldier
Command Sgt. Major Carlos R. Olvera in Afghanistan 2011 (right). (COURTESY PHOTO / July 4, 2013)
But then he grew up, and went on to become a command sergeant major in the United States Army.
“I would go to school but I never went to class,” said Olvera during a telephone interview. “I got sent to Aurora and I graduated from there.”
Olvera, not sure of what path to take in life, decided at the age of 19 to join the enlisted side of the U.S. Army.
“Initially I joined the military to pick up a vocation,” he said. “I had no desire to go to college, but really didn’t know what I was getting myself into.”
Three tours to the Middle East, three Bronze Stars, one Purple Heart and an undergraduate degree later, Olvera said he can’t imagine doing anything else.
“What can I say, the Army core values appealed to me,” he said. “The patriotism, camaraderie and sense of accomplishment made me re-enlist after my four years were up.”
Olvera has been serving in the U.S. Army for the last 24 years and has no intention of retiring anytime soon.
“You know people always ask me when am I getting out,” he said. “They make it seem as though I am incarcerated, but this is my chosen profession.”
John Moreno, principal of Aurora High School, first heard about Olvera through Facebook while looking for a guest speaker for one of the upcoming graduations.
“When people are serving our country in the armed services in other parts of the U.S. or the world I think that is awesome,” Moreno said. “CSM Olvera being an Aurora High School alumni makes us proud.”
Olvera said he was unfortunately unable to speak at the graduation but hopes to do so in the future.
“I feel a sense of obligation to give back to the Army,” he said, “by telling the Army story.”
Olvera went on to speak of his first tour to Iraq in 2003.
Olvera was a platoon leader in the 4th infantry division during the initial invasion.
“We were supposed to invade from the north,” he said. “However, we ended up going in through Kuwait.”
Olvera said his unit wasn’t sure how it would be received by the people and certainly did not know what to expect.
“We saw a lot of poverty,” he said. “Folks were relieved to see us there, these people were basically left there to dry.”
Seeing the people in Iraq in their agony and their lack of freedom would make anyone appreciate the freedoms back in the United States, he said.
Olvera received a Bronze Star medal for his service and contribution while in Iraq, but mentioned that such a medal was rare for someone of his rank (platoon leader) to be awarded at the time.
Olvera would go on to serve another tour in Iraq during 2006, where he would receive a Purple Heart for wounds he received during combat.
Olvera would serve as a command sergeant major for the first time during his tour to Afghanistan in 2011.
His time overseas overall adds up to 40 months, giving up a part of his freedoms each time so that the people in the U.S. would continue to enjoy their freedoms, he said.
Olvera said as a young kid in Calexico there wasn’t a lot of opportunities and he doesn’t know what he would’ve done if it hadn’t of been for the Army.
“It is an honor to serve the Army and the people of the United States,” he said.
Olvera went on to say that he is honored to have been appointed command sergeant major at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation at Fort Benning, Ga.
Although Olvera doesn’t often get to reflect on how far he has come, he said it feels pretty good.
Staff Writer Alexis Rangel can be reached at 760-337-3440 or firstname.lastname@example.org