It was the middle 1990s and all Las Animas native Al Losey wanted was to skip town and see the world. Losey wanted an adventure, he said. At the time, he probably had no idea that a couple decades later he would be honored with a promotion to the highest rank on the enlisted side of the U.S. Army, Sergeant Major.
Losey said he had been getting calls from Army recruiters, but he kept rejecting them. He finally decided to hear one out and enlisted by 1995. By 1996 he was on his way to basic training. Twenty-four years later on Aug. 4, after returning to Las Animas for the occasion, Losey was promoted to Sergeant Major by his grandmother, Hazel Miller, and his wife, Sandra Losey (Vasquez).
"I really didn't have any plans coming out of high school," said Losey. "I just knew I wanted to get out of Las Animas. I mean, my goal was to get out and see the world is what I really wanted to do. I loved adventure. I never even really thought about the Army until some recruiters started calling me.
"I said no, and I said no, and I said no, and then I finally said, 'Okay, let's hear what you've got.' And he showed me some pictures, that I've never done in the Army, but, someone does in the Army."
"He showed me all this stuff that they do. They do this rafting. I was like, 'Oh, I want to do all that.' So I made the decision and I actually signed to enlist in December of 1995, and then the summer of '96 I went to basic training. And here I am 24 years later. It's been a long time, it's been a long, hard time."
Losey was deployed to Iraq three times. He has been stationed in Fort Campbell, Ky., Fort Carson, Colo., Fort Bliss, Texas and Hawaii. Most recently, Losey wrapped up teaching Reserve Officers' Training Corps at Virginia Tech and graduated from the Sergeant Major Academy in Fort Bliss, Texas.
"It's a big school, it's a year-long school. It's good," said Losey.
Losey said his time in the armed services has taught him a lot. It's given him discipline, direction and motivation. It's also given him a deep respect for the men and women who enlist.
"So, to say the best lesson I've ever learned? I think: Treat soldiers as you want to be treated," said Losey. "I think the best lesson I've ever learned is, if you treat soldiers like they should be treated, then they're going to treat you right. And it's all about the soldiers. The soldiers take care of you. Everything you do for them, they'll turn around and give back to you, because they're the workers.
"I'm no longer the worker, I'm in the leadership position where I'm overseeing all the work being done. The workers, if you treat them right, they'll treat you right and they'll make you look good, which in turn, makes the whole organization look good."
The newly promoted sergeant major said he doesn't think he would be where he is today without his family.
"I'm really proud of my family. My family has always been there," Losey said. "I probably wouldn't have made it this far without all of my uncles and then my grandparents. I was raised by my grandparents, they took me in after my parents passed when I was really young. They turned me into who I am today. I couldn't have made it this far without my family. I really love my family to death. They're the best thing that's ever — I couldn't ask for a better family."
What is next for Losey? He and his wife have moved to Fort Knox, Ky., where he will serve as the cadets' summer training sergeant major. Every year, Losey explained, cadets travel there from around the world to complete the last phase of their training to become Army lieutenants. Losey, he said, will be in charge of making sure the summer training runs smoothly. Coronavirus brought a halt to the traditional summer training at Fort Knox, although it was still carried out on home bases last year. As of early August, Losey was still waiting for a clearer picture of what this coming training season will look like.
The rank of sergeant major is a prestigious position only achieved by 3% of members of the military, Losey said.
Tribune-Democrat reporter Christian Burney can be reached by email at email@example.com. Help support local journalism by subscribing to the La Junta Tribune-Democrat at lajuntatribunedemocrat.com/subscribenow.