With more than 20 years of military service, one 1st “Ironhorse” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division soldier personifies the 2013 National Hispanic Heritage Month theme, “Hispanics: Serving and Leading Our Nation with Pride and Honor,” through personal values and a commitment to serve.

Born and raised an American citizen in San German, Puerto Rico, 1st Sgt. Maria Levitre serves as the senior noncommissioned officer of the brigade’s Headquarters and Headquarters “Hammer” Troop.

This annual observance, running from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, celebrates the contributions of Hispanic Americans whose roots sprouted in Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and South America.

“Being an NCO is an honor,” Levitre said. “It’s just an honor, because soldiers are always going to look up to you. It gives you more motivation when someone comes to you and says I want to be like you.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Mervyn Ripley, top NCO for the Ironhorse Brigade, noticed a need for strong female NCO mentors after speaking with young female soldiers. Ripley wanted a leader with a strong personality, who could rise to the challenge of leading the brigade’s headquarters troop, and someone female soldiers could aspire to become.

Levitre’s professionalism, calm demeanor and exacting standards stood out, Ripley said, adding she assesses every situation looking for the best avenue to take on a problem.

Ripley said he likes Levitre’s style of leadership because it reminds him of his own, and she always leads from the front.

“To me, if you want to be a good leader, you have to earn the soldiers’ trust and (be) able to tell them this is right, this is wrong, this is how you fix it,” Levitre said.

Although Levitre grew into the leader she set out to be upon enlistment, her path was not without struggle.

“I think the biggest challenge was just being a female in the Army,” Levitre said. “You have to push harder to get to the top.”

Levitre entered the Army during a time when there were fewer female soldiers than today.

“I was the only female in my motor pool, so that was kind of weird,” Levitre remembered. “Everybody looks at you different. I was always just doing the same thing the male soldiers did.”

Females have changed the Army, Levitre said, and she sees chances for them to excel as new doors open.

“I think one of the greatest things about our Army is that we are not biased by gender nor race,” Ripley said.

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