CONTACT: Lt. Col. Blanca Reyes, blanca.e.reyes4.mil
CONTACT: Lt. Col. Blanca Reyes, reyesbe
When Lt. Col. Blanca Reyes arrived at New Mexico State University nearly two years ago, she became the university’s first female and first Hispanic professor of military science. Recently she was selected this year’s Professor of Military Science for U.S. Army Cadet Command out of 275 Army ROTC programs across the country.
“It’s very humbling,” Reyes said. “I never expected it. We do our jobs day in day out not because we want to be recognized but because we love what we’re doing. We take our job very seriously that we’re molding future leaders.
“This is such a small program. But what it highlights is size doesn’t matter. It’s not about how big you are but the quality of leaders you’re producing. It’s a team effort. NMSU is providing an outstanding education and we’re providing them a different kind of education, giving them the leadership skills they need. Small programs can achieve such great and wonderful things if we all just roll up our sleeves and work hard and believe in these cadets.”
Moving comes with the territory in the military. Just as she heard about her selection as the Military Science Professor of the Year, Reyes was told to prepare for a new assignment in San Antonio where she will be the Brigade Executive Officer at 5th Brigade Senior Army ROTC.
“Lt. Col Reyes is an outstanding leader and role model for our cadets,” said Enrico Pontelli, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “She came to NMSU with a vision for what our Army ROTC program could be and with the support of her team she has grown the program over the last two years. She has been an inspirational member of the team in the college, especially with her outstanding recruitment efforts. We will miss her.”
Reyes understands the importance of leadership under battle conditions first hand. She was deployed to Afghanistan as a military intelligence officer.
“As a combat veteran, I know what training and discipline it requires to lead your men and women to victory,” Reyes said. “One of the things I wanted for this program is to make it a premier program, the best program that it could be to give these cadets the leadership, the mentorship they need so they can become great leaders in the U.S. Army. But also we want to give them realistic training and help them to build resilience.”
Under Reyes command, the cadre hosted the 25th-annual Brigade Ranger Challenge Competition, which was held on the NMSU campus for the first time. The grueling three-day competition tested teams of 11 cadets from regional universities on problem solving and military skills.
Reyes described NMSU’s ROTC cadets as working hard not only on their academics and military science classes but also holding other leadership positions on campus such as tutoring, student government, as student athletes and in fraternities or sororities. Among the most prestigious volunteer projects of the cadets is that NMSU is the honorary Bataan Death March Batallion. The cadets also work closely with the Boys and Girls Clubs, the Lions Club and other local organizations and each year, they conduct a fundraiser for El Caldito Soup Kitchen in Las Cruces.
“It’s very important for us when we’re in the military, not only is that military base part of our community, but also the city we reside in and it’s important to give back to the community,” Reyes said. “A leader is not only strong and resilient, but also caring, caring for his or her soldiers, but also for our community. This community has welcomed me, the cadets and this program with open arms and if we can just give them back a little of the support they give us every day, it means a lot to us.”
Reyes grew up in Los Angeles and was the first in her family to graduate from high school and college. She understands the struggles many of the cadets face.
“I did not come from a wealthy family,” said Reyes. “I worked very hard to be where I’m at and I think that gives them hope.
“When you’re administering their oath of commission and they’re second lieutenants in the National Guard, active duty Army or reserve and the next day you see them walk across the stage and get their degree or graduate degree. That is the best, the most rewarding because they’re like your children. The hardest part of this job is the students you can’t reach or can’t help. When you see those students who don’t make it, it hurts. You want to see everyone succeed. I want to give them the chance that someone gave me.”