Soldiers in the 21st Theater Sustainment Command love what they do. That’s what Sgt. Maj. Brian Pascual, leader of the 21st TSC Retention Team strives to ensure. Pascual — who hails from Waipahu, Hawai’i — grew up with the “Aloha Spirit,” which emphasizes unity and caring for others.
“I was raised to be unselfish, and being a Soldier you have to serve selflessly,” he said.
According to the State of Hawai’i Revised Statutes, the Aloha Spirit is the coordination of mind and heart within each person. It is based on the concepts of kindness, harmony, agreeability, humility and patience and is the working philosophy of Native Hawaiians.
This philosophy has influenced Pascual’s approach to retention, helping Soldiers and their families thrive in the U.S. Army.
“Helping Soldiers define their purpose is key,” said Pascual. He explained that while education, the desire to serve their country and the ability to provide their families a good quality of life are strong motivators for enlisting, when it comes to retention Soldiers must explore career opportunities.
“It takes a special Soldier and family to serve,” said Pascual. “It comes with sacrifices a lot of people don’t understand. It’s not just about the money. You have to love what you do.”
According to Pascual, many Soldiers don’t realize their own talents and potential. So, we [the retention team] recommend and guide them,” he said. “It’s about finding that niche. I always tell Soldiers, ‘Do something you love,’ and then it comes naturally.”
Pascual is doing what he loves, helping other Soldiers chart their Army careers, ensuring they have the opportunity to reach their full potential.
The 21st TSC Retention Team recently earned the U.S. Army Europe-Africa Commanding General Retention Excellence Award for top-producing large command by retaining 1,400 Soldiers in fiscal year 2021 — 128 percent of their goal.
Pascual’s achievements and his family’s modest background give him credibility when talking to other Soldiers. His paternal grandfather immigrated to Hawai’i from the Philippines and along with Pascual’s father, worked hard to provide for their families. Pascual’s maternal grandfather also served in the U.S. Navy. Influenced by this strong familial work ethic, Pascual knew as a young boy that he wanted to serve his country.
He started his Army career as a petroleum supply specialist and had no desire to do retention. But during his time as a non-commissioned officer in charge deployed to Iraq in 2005-2006, he was challenged to try something new.
“It was a first sergeant who saw something in me, that I never did,” Pascual recalled. “He made me his retention guy. I told him I didn’t want to do that, and he said, ‘Hey, you are the sergeant, I am the first sergeant. You are going to do what I tell you to do.
“So I did it, and in a couple weeks I retained over 50 soldiers. He fired the last retention guy and said, ‘Sgt. Pascual, you’re it,’ and I still didn’t want to do it.”
But when his unit at Fort Sill needed career counselors, he became the full-time retention noncommissioned officer. He ultimately realized that retention was his calling.
“That first sergeant saw something in me that I did not know was for me,” said Pascual. “I use that experience to pass on to the next Soldier and family. Sometimes it takes someone from the outside to show us. Being a career counselor was my calling, but I did not realize it.”
Pascual excelled in his new career and is the first in his family to have achieved the rank of sergeant major. Despite his many successes, Pascual displays ha’aha’a — or humility — a key component of the Aloha Spirit.
“Serving next to my brother and sisters, to me is there’s nothing in the world that I would rather do,” he said. “No other profession that could replace this. It is bigger than ourselves.”
According to Pascual’s wife, Chasity Yagin-Pascual, their family has had the opportunity to see the world and meet new people thanks to his military service. No matter where they have been stationed, she said her husband always “brought the aloha.”
“Treating others with dignity and respect, working hard, staying humble and reminding people that tomorrow is a new day — no need to stress,” she said.
“He is very passionate about his job,” she said. “He is always willing to go over and beyond to help people because he was once in that situation where he needed help. He is willing to jump through hoops, jump through fire, to make sure he meets someone’s expectations.”
She has teased him in the past about working instead of sleeping and recalled his reasoning for putting in the extra hours. “He would tell me, ‘They [Soldiers] need help, they need a voice, they need someone to help push them in the right direction. I’m going to do what I’ve got do to help them.’”
Pascual shared his Army story during an Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month event at Kleber Kaserne in May.
“In Hawai’i, we are ever-mindful of our ancestors and the sacrifices they made to allow us to stand on their shoulders,” said Pascual. “Asian American Pacific Islander Month is an opportunity to show our gratitude. We celebrate our heritage, culture and traditions as they strengthen us as individuals and, in turn, strengthens the organizations to which we belong. In my case, that is the United States Army.”