Brig. Gen. Eric Sanchez was just promoted to 2nd Lt. in this 1988 photo taken shortly after his graduation from Officer Basic Course at Fort Bliss, Texas. From left to right, William A. Sanchez, Mary L. Sanchez, Sanchez and Teresa. Sanchez will be retiring Aug. 10 with 35 years of service.
WSMR Commander Brig. Gen. Eric Sanchez and his wife Teresa have made WSMR their home since August 2016, their professional and personal relationships at WSMR within those two years will leave a deep impact long after their departure this Friday.
They arrived in 2016 to serve their new role for WSMR after Sanchez previously served in Hawaii as a commanding general for the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command.
Sanchez and Teresa are natives of New Mexico, who met when they were both attending college at New Mexico State University over 30 years ago. They were introduced through mutual friends while in college and this year will mark 31 years of marriage. Sanchez began his career in the New Mexico Army National Guard and when Sanchez first introduced the idea of an active duty tour to Teresa, he said the agreement was for three years and then return to New Mexico - Sanchez will be retiring this Friday with 35 years of service, 32 on active duty.
Prior to becoming a mother full-time, Teresa worked as a special education teacher at the Gadsden Junior High School. Since her departure from the workforce Teresa has immersed herself in Family Readiness Groups and spouse support groups with each assignment, WSMR was no exception. Here at WSMR she worked behind the scenes supporting numerous activities. She and a group of leadership spouses would often visit organizations throughout the post to personally deliver popcorn to the employees and wish them a happy day.
Sanchez' father, William A. Sanchez, served four years in the Navy in Hawaii. He returned to Albuquerque after his service and joined the New Mexico Army National Guard. He was eventually commissioned as an officer and retired as a colonel. Sanchez said his father was a major reason why he joined the service. His father urged him to join the New Mexico Army National Guard while in college to assist with his college expenses.
"At the time I didn't understand what I was getting into, to include basic training," Sanchez said. "Once I was in my unit, I became very comfortable with the military and wanted to continue to be challenged."
During his time at the guard, Sanchez said he worked directly for Sgt. Herbie Hernandez who encouraged him to continue to pursue his goals and interests.
"He was very supportive when I told him I wanted to join the ROTC program and become and officer." he said.
Within his 32 years of active duty service, Sanchez and his family have been stationed as far away as South Korea, Hawaii and Rhode Island, and as nearby as Fort Bliss, Texas. He has five operational deployments under his belt, which include time in the Middle East and the Republic of Korea. Some of those assignments included joint tours with his sister services.
"I can recall my first joint assignment working at the Joint Intelligence Center Pacific," he said. "I was a senior captain and quickly realized that you either become value added to the unit or you will soon be forgotten in an organization of that size."
Sanchez said he has been privileged to command five times in his career.
"My highlights are interacting with Soldiers as well as my civilian workforce and working together to solve challenges," he said. "Regardless of the command or location, I am amazed at what is being accomplished by our workforce on a daily basis."
When he served as an operational commander Sanchez said he was in the receive mode for new capabilities. Once he arrived at WSMR he said he gained a greater appreciation for the behind-the -scenes action to get a capability to the warfighter.
"It was great to be able to see it from both ends of the spectrum," he said.
He said some of his highlights from working on the range is being able to observe the professional workforce carrying out their mission on a daily basis. There are over 5,000 missions conducted annually at WSMR.
"The workforce understands they are contributing to the readiness of our DoD forces and nation and that is their motivation," he said.
He recalls being able to observe the "hot" missions inside the Cox Range Control Center and watching all of the different elements of WSMR working as a team.
"I was able to see different elements of the installation collaborating together," he said.
He calls the great support and partnership with the surrounding communities unique and not like what he's seen in other installations.
"As I've stated publicly on several occasions, I've been stationed across the country and the globe and not all partnerships are as tight as what we have here at WSMR," he said. "The support we get from Las Cruces, Alamogordo, Holloman, El Paso and Fort Bliss is second to none. We also couldn't accomplish our mission without the support of the ranchers that we partner with."
When he's not working, witnessing launches, or attending local events Sanchez likes to spend time interacting with the WSMR community. In two occasions Sanchez has actually performed for the WSMR community with workforce and community members creating an impromptu band. See the video for yourself at www.facebook.com/wsmissilerange
Of his 35 years of service, Sanchez said he is most proud of staying true to himself, regardless of rank. In his personal life, he is proud to be married for 30 years and to be able to see his daughters grow up. They have two daughters who live together in Texas, both having graduated from the University of North Texas.
"Seeing both of my daughters graduate from college and begin their own journey in life is quite an achievement," he said.
After retiring Sanchez said he plans to stay in his wife's hometown of Mesilla, New Mexico, about 30 minutes away from the installation. They will be renovating Teresa's old childhood home which he recently discovered was a garrison base for the Mexican army. They plan to do some traveling and visit his father in Albuquerque more often. He hopes that by staying in the area, he can continue to serve his local community.
"I hope to find a way to give back to NMSU, where it all started," he said.