As a small child growing up in Puerto Rico, Juanita heard stories about the French Foreign Legion and decided at an early age that she wanted the adventure of a life in the military.
Her parents, both U.S. college professors, did all they could to discourage a career path in the military. West Point was not yet open to women, so Juanita waited until she graduated from college with her Master’s degree in math before she joined the U.S. Army. Fluent in Spanish, she originally wanted to be a linguistics officer, but the Army selected military intelligence as her specialty.
Receiving a direct commission as a 2LT (2nd Lieutenant) in Military intelligence, Juanita was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division (ABN DIV) at Ft Bragg. Initially as a 2LT Platoon Leader, she trained troops and led them on many a 20-mile run, eventually going on to work primarily in Military Intelligence and secondarily in Signal Corps (Communications).
Juanita served her country for 22 years in the U.S. Army and finished her military career as a Colonel and Battalion Executive Officer (BN XO) in the 82nd Airborne Division (ABN DIV).
Career highlights include over 300 parachute jumps with deployments to Grenada, Panama and Iraq. Juanita knew this verse well:
“Stand up, hook up, shuffle to the door, jump right out and count to four.”
Her uniform is decorated with Master Parachutist Wings with two combat stars for jumps into Grenada and Panama, a badge for Air Assault (helicopters) and a badge for Field Medical Expert.
Juanita had all the adventure she expected in the military, from securing an airstrip in Grenada (Operation Urgent Fury), keeping tabs on Noriega in Panama (Operation Just Cause), to intercepting enemy communications in Iraq as part of Operation Desert Shield, later to become known as Desert Storm. In Serbia and Kosovo, as a part of NATO, she collected intelligence for the peace keeping mission. She also served as an electronic warfare surveillance officer in Korea, Germany and Italy.
Memorable moments include seeing tracers with live enemy rounds coming at her while jumping into Grenada. A bad landing in high winds at 29 Palms Marine Base left Juanita unconscious and stuck in the top of a tree, she had to have her chute cut off to release her from the tree. “Even though there were high winds, we had to jump and the unit sustained a lot of injuries.” Once during a water crossing in a Florida swamp she was caught in the midst of a swarm of cotton mouths, but escaped with only a bite mark on her boot!
Juanita and her husband Tim chose SaddleBrooke Ranch because it feels like a small town in a rural setting. The good air quality and dry heat are important extras. Lastly, Juanita says she likes living in a gated community because it feels a little like being on an Army Post!