FORWARD OPERATING BASE APACHE, Afghanistan – Army Spc. Nancy Vega knows why she joined the Army, but her perspective has changed.
“I didn’t join for patriotic reasons or because I needed a job,” said the truck driver with Echo Company, Forward Support Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, Combined Task Force Duke. “I initially joined to get a skill set to help after the Army.”
Within 13 months of joining, Vega said, her entire outlook and motivation evolved.
Vega serves with a unit responsible for recovery. She is responsible for counter-improvised explosive device tools, ensuring everything is ready and the equipment is working. Before the Army, Vega worked as a skills trainer. Private organizations hired her and other skilled professionals to help special needs children.
“I simply tell people I was a school teacher,” she said. “If they had a very challenging child, they would hire us, and we would help facilitate and assist helping them develop the skills they needed, depending on what goals they had.”
“The Mililani, Hawaii, native said her decision to enlist was impulsive, but she’s glad she made it. “After getting in and seeing so much pride and honor, which I thank my [noncommissioned officers] for, my mind is open to different perspectives.”
Vega said there is a history everywhere she goes that she was not aware of before she joined the Army. Now, she added, her motivation is to uphold that honor and pride and to become the best soldier she can become.
“She is a team player and a hard worker,” said Army Staff Sgt. Ronald Canty, maintenance platoon sergeant. “Vega has a great grasp of knowledge and is always willing to learn and teach others.”
Because she was older than the cutoff age to go to Officer Candidate School after basic combat training, Vega said, she received guidance to serve in the enlisted ranks for a year and then apply for OCS.
“I’m very happy I went through enlisted, because I see different sides of the ranks,” she said. “At first, I didn’t understand the difference between the two. … Officers deal more with administration, and the enlisted [soldier] deals more with hands-on involvement."
The hands-on training she has gained from working closely with an infantry unit is the type of training and experience she hoped to receive to increase her skill set for when she receives her commission, Vega said.
“I don’t see it as a segregation thing,” she added. “We are side by side, all together. I’m excited to learn a lot of boots-on ground-things.”
Vega said she enjoys law enforcement and weapons, and she hopes to be a military police officer when she’s commissioned. After the Army, she added, she wants to use her experience to work in criminal investigation.
Until then, she is excited to continue learning everything she can to be the best soldier she can be.
“I don’t like to be complacent. I like to move forward,” she said. “I want to stay in the Army as long as I can physically handle it and remain cognitive of the standards and apply them.”
Vega said so far all she has done is learn, and she is thankful for her NCOs and chain of command for always pushing her and her peers to excel.