“You Only Fail If You Quit”: Tenacity Serving In The Field Artillery And The Infantry

Melissa Vargas


Melissa Vargas was born in September 1991 and grew up in Savannah with two younger brothers. Her parents both emigrated from Mexico to the United States pursuing opportunities, and earning citizenship was important to them. As a girl, she was interested in soccer, dancing, cooking, and art, and she wanted to attend SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design). In high school, she was a very active student and athlete, but also worked in the restaurant her parents managed to help provide income, often until midnight. She succeeded, in part, through the help of supportive teachers. West Point admissions reached out to her because of her good grades, and her first thought was, “The military? Absolutely not!” But then she considered that perhaps West Point was a way to “move up,” and she decided to give it a shot. She remembers getting yelled at on the bus during R-Day, but a friendly soul at shoe-fitting encouraged her with a positive, “Cheer up, it will be ok.” She struggled during Beast with an “over-use” injury, realizing that she was “fairly mediocre,” but also resolved to “keep showing up.” She realized that failing an event is not failure; quitting is failure. Yearling summer at Camp Buckner was a turning point. She realized that she really enjoyed the maneuver aspects of the Army and began considering branching combat arms. That notion was solidified during CLDT (Cadet Leader Development Training), when she acknowledged, “Maneuver is right for me,” and one of her NCOs, SFC DeVoe, recommended trying Field Artillery. She chose to major in Information Technology, figuring that it would be something useful for the future. She was active in the Spanish Club, helped start the Latin Dance Team at West Point. On her official visit to the Academy, she was exposed to some of the cultural clubs, and that helped solidify her decision to attend West Point. She joined the Judo team and enjoyed the pain, sweat, and effort required in that sport. Mentorship and good leadership inspired her to branch Field Artillery (and later to transition to the Infantry). As an Artillery Officer, she served in a variety of jobs, including Fire Support Officer, Fire Direction Officer, and Paladin Platoon Leader. She loved serving as an FSO and enjoyed the personalities of the Infantry she worked with. In 2016, a MILPER message asked for women to switch to Infantry and she volunteered, completing the Infantry Basic Course and Ranger School (after serving as an Infantry BOLC Executive Officer). She was then assigned to 2ACR in Germany, where she served as a Regimental Plans Officer, coordinating with Embassies for diplomatic clearances as 2ACR prepared for a partnership deployment to Poland. In September 2020, she took command of F Troop, serving in Poland and in Germany. She called this experience the most rewarding of her life. In Poland, she conducted numerous multi-national exercises, in which she worked with Officers from Britain, Poland, and Croatia, learning the cultural nuances required when interacting with leaders of different nationalities. She explains her relationship with her First Sergeant, noting, “I’m the dad, you’re the mom.” In 2022, she became an Observer Coach / Trainer at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) at Hohenfels, Germany, where she focuses on helping rotational units create more shared understanding, noting, “I like helping commanders get more sleep.” She and her husband Brian are hoping to serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment. In this interview, she talks about her childhood, her West Point years, and her Army experiences. She highlights her adventures in Field Artillery and in the Infantry, discussing positive leadership examples along the way. At the end of the interview, she reflects on her service, calling it “my love language.” She is thankful for what this country has given her, and states that “West Point is a home I didn’t know I needed.”


topics Women in Service West Point History Leadership Camaraderie
interviewer David Siry
date 23 January 2024


name Melissa Vargas
institution USMA
graduation year 2014
service Field Artillery / Infantry
unit 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment; 4th Battalion 27th Field Artillery Regiment; F Troop 2d Cavalry Regiment
specialty Ranger
service dates 2014