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Army CSM Reflects On Military Service, Heritage
by U.S. Army Capt. Erick Schneider-Cuevas
May 15, 2024

Command Sgt. Maj. (CMS) John Bamba remembers making his decision to follow in his father’s footsteps and join the Army when he was 13 years old.

May 8, 2024 - U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. (CMS) John Bamba stands in front of his military coin collection. Bamba received the coins from several military and organizational leaders over his 26-year military career. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army photo by Capt. Erick Schneider-Cuevas.)
May 8, 2024 - U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. (CMS) John Bamba stands in front of his military coin collection. Bamba received the coins from several military and organizational leaders over his 26-year military career. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army photo by Capt. Erick Schneider-Cuevas.)

“I enjoyed seeing how fulfilling it was for him to be a member of the Army. I just remembered that feeling: ‘One day I’m going to be in the Army just like you. I’m going to get to wear the uniform.’”

Bamba’s father enlisted in the Army in February 1975 as a wheeled vehicle mechanic. He served in several duty stations throughout his career, deployed during Operation Desert Storm, and retired in 1994 as a shop foreman.

When Bamba and his brother were 13 years old, their father sat them down and encouraged them to go to college after they graduated high school. To sweeten the deal, he promised to buy each of them their first car if they agreed.

“My brother took advantage of that, and he went to San Diego State immediately after graduating high school,” Bamba recalls. His brother got a 1996 Nissan pickup truck. Bamba would have gotten a Toyota Tacoma, but he had other plans for his future.

“I knew I wanted to join the Army, so I politely declined his offer and decided to enlist in the Army,” he said.

Bamba enlisted in the Army in August 1996 as a Field Artillery Cannon Crewmember (13B).

“Like everybody else, my plan was to join the Army for a couple years, get out and go to college,” he said. More than a couple of years later ... 28 years more ... Bamba is still proudly serving. “The Army has provided everything that my family and I need. I would challenge you to find another career that provides so much not only for the individual, but also their families. It has been very rewarding,” he said.

While Bamba rejected his father’s suggestion to go to college right after high school, he still considers education extremely important.

“Ever since I joined the Army, I’ve been taking college courses,” he said. Through Army Tuition Assistance, he earned an Associate of Arts in General Studies and a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Upper Iowa University. He earned a Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration from the University of Louisville through the Cadre and Faculty Development Course (now called the Master Educator Course).

Bamba strives to excel both academically and professionally.

“We as non-commissioned officers don’t go to [professional military education] to learn our military operational specialty,” he said.

“We go to those schools to validate what we should already know. Essentially, we tie in our self-development and operational domain knowledge to our institutional knowledge. Excelling at these schools is imperative to setting yourself apart from your peers.”

On how he’s constantly able to exceed the standard both professionally and academically, Bamba said, “It is no secret. Basically, whatever you’re doing, do it to the best of your abilities. That’s what I could offer anybody.”

He continued, “Most people go to those courses with the intent of just passing, but if you really put your mind to it you can graduate on top […]. But it’s entirely up to you, and that’s the beautiful thing about it.”

Bamba’s service has taken him around the world: Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Camp Hovey, Republic of Korea; Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; Camp Casey, Republic of Korea; Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Fort Riley, Kansas; University of Texas in Edinburg, Texas; and finally, back to Fort Sill where he currently serves as the command sergeant major for the 75th Field Artillery Brigade.

Wherever he’s stationed, Bamba incorporates his upbringing and heritage at home and at work. He reminisces on having new adventures every weekend when he was growing up, interacting with other people from the islands, many of whom were military families themselves.

“I remember my mom and dad hosting people, or we’d go over to their houses, and it would always be a great time. […] That’s something that I carried with me. Whenever I get the opportunity, I surround myself with people from the island and share food and our different cultures,” he said.

Asian American Pacific Islander Month is important to Bamba, as he reflects on what his culture and heritage mean to him and his fellow Soldiers.

“This month is very important for a lot of people, and I think it’s important that we celebrate it. That has always been in the back of my head: never forgetting where you come from," he said.

To him, Asian American Pacific Islander Month is not only about celebrating his own culture but also sharing it with others.

“I encourage [everyone] to get out there and understand other cultures. It’s amazing what you’ll find out there," he said.

Bamba’s drive for professional excellence extends throughout his family tree.

“I stand on the shoulders of giants,” he said. “Just a couple years ago, after I graduated the [Sergeant Major] Academy, I found out that my grandmother’s brother was in class #1 of the Sergeant Major Academy. You can never forget that.”

And Bamba’s military family lineage continues to grow. He has a son who is active duty Army, one that is in the Army National Guard, one in the Army reserves, and his daughter is in the Air Force.

His brother ... the one who had a ’96 Nissan pickup ... is a captain in the Army Reserves.

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