Incoming Army brigadier general credits Los Banos for ‘moral fabric and character’

Los Banos native Susan Arnold poses with her mother, Gloria Escaller, and her father, Don Escallier, during her promotion ceremony to the rank of colonel in 2012.
Los Banos native Susan Arnold poses with her mother, Gloria Escaller, and her father, Don Escallier, during her promotion ceremony to the rank of colonel in 2012. Susan Arnold

U.S. Army Col. Susan Arnold’s family was very active in the community during the 1970s and 80s in Los Banos.

Her father, Don Escallier, was a two-term school board trustee and participated in the Los Banos Rotary Club, while her mother, Gloria Escallier, was a key member of the Los Banos Soroptimist Club.

Arnold worked at the Los Banos Drug Fountain and participating in sports, extracurriculars and academic activities at Los Banos Junior High, Our Lady Fatima School and Los Banos High.

Also, she came back after her freshman and sophomore years at UC Berkeley to work at Pacheco State Park.

“Our family goes back many years in Los Banos,” Arnold said.

That service-oriented upbringing stuck with Arnold, who was recently confirmed by the U.S. Senate for promotion to brigadier general, a one-star general rank.

“In the military, we have a tradition of service,” Arnold said, owing her love of the community to her Los Banos roots. “Everybody I knew through folks and friends contributed to the community, and that tradition of service.”

The promotion, which will take place sometime in the coming months, will make Arnold the assistant judge advocate general for military law and operations, she said.

That means she will be using her 28-year experience to help solve the wide range of legal issues the Army encounters, along with helping run the Army’s legal arm, the JAG Corps.

Arnold will be based at the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., to oversee policy branches for the judge advocate general, including criminal and international law, administrative law, legal assistance and labor and employment law. She will also engage in public outreach.

Arnold joined the ROTC during her third and fourth years at the university. She then signed up as a two-year cadet for the Army before joining its selective Funded Legal Education Program, attending law school at Ohio State University.

According to a news release by Judge Advocate General Flora D. Darpino, Arnold previously served as a signal officer and judge advocate, with several tours in Iraq, including during Operation Iraqi Freedom with the 101st Airborne Division. Also, she served a tour in Liberia to help combat the Ebola epidemic.

Arnold said her job as a law advocate for the Army entailed many responsibilities, from advising officers on when to use force in combat situations and how to do it lawfully, to soldier discipline, to negotiating leases and land use in other countries.

Arnold’s father, Don Escallier, described a story in which Arnold had to learn about wheat prices on the ground in Kurdish Erbil, Iraq, for when the government toppled, negotiating the sale of farmers’ surplus wheat they usually sold to the government.

Escallier, a pharmacist, was born and raised in Los Banos, as were his parents.

“Volunteerism was part of our lifestyle,” said Escallier, who now lives with Arnold’s mother in Twain Harte.

“I’m very grateful that I had my upbringing (in Los Banos),” Arnold said. “I do seriously think it’s part of my moral fabric and character. And in the military, we don’t say lightly that integrity is the most important value you have.”