Idaho Military Division Public Affairs/Crystal Farris
Sgt. 1st Class Gladys Montelongo was a single mother raising three children and managing a Subway restaurant when she decided to change career path and join the Idaho Army National Guard at 28 years old in 2009.
“I felt I had more to offer and wanted to be a positive role model for my kids,” she said. “I knew joining the Guard would provide opportunities for myself and my family.”
Through the Idaho Guard, Montelongo has since received approximately $55,000 in enlistment and reenlistment bonuses; purchased her first home using a VA home loan; met her current husband and used her military tuition assistance to earn a bachelor’s degree at Boise State University.
“Before joining, I never imagined having the means to buy a house or earn a degree,” she said. “The money and opportunities are available in the Guard. Joining has helped me provide for my family and motivated me to do better.”
In April, Montelongo was promoted to sergeant first class as the culinary management noncommissioned officer for Golf Company, 145th Brigade Support Battalion.
She is also currently pursuing a master’s degree in legal studies at the American Military University. Montelongo said continuing her education and career advancement sets the right example for her four children and also the 11 Guardsmen who she manages at work.
“Being a mother and an Army leader is similar in my mind,” she said. “I show my kids the value of hard work and dedication and push them to be the best in what they do, just like I push my Soldiers to be the best they can be.”
One of Montelongo’s children currently manages a Little Caesar’s restaurant in Lewiston, Idaho, while her oldest son serves in the Idaho Army National Guard as a specialist with the organization’s 148th Field Artillery Regiment.
“Seeing my son follow in my footsteps gives me a proud feeling as a parent,” said Montelongo. “I believe my work ethic and service has positively contributed to his decisions.”
Although some aspects of leading a family and a group of troops overlap, leading Soldiers can be a lot different than managing individuals in a civilian job, she said.
“The difference between managing a Subway restaurant and a culinary section in the military is that I’m responsible for the wellbeing and career development of my subordinates,” said Montelongo. “My troops are a reflection of my leadership, which I provide through on-the-job mentorship, training and counseling.”
Montelongo developed her leadership through years of experience as a senior food service specialist and while in Army leadership courses, where she learned to provide Soldiers purpose and fulfillment, she said.
“I take the time to get to know my Soldiers and what motivates them,” said Montelongo. “I look out for them, make sure they have what they need and advocate for their best interests. When everyone feels good, they do good things and that’s the rewarding part.”
While preparing large-scale meals for hundreds of Soldiers during training, including in field environments from mobile kitchens, she also provides her subordinates with motivation by getting in the kitchen and showing them how to spice up recipes using bacon or rubs made from scratch.
“The job is demanding and its hard work, but very rewarding,” Montelongo said. “As cooks, we work early mornings and late nights preparing and serving meals, but Soldiers look forward to seeing us and getting a hot meal in the field. It’s a nice feeling knowing we get to provide that to them, so we make it fun and ensure the food always tastes good.”
Idaho National Guard, Idaho Army National Guard, National Guard, 145th Brigade Support Battalion, Mother’s Day, Women’s History Month