From Vietnam To Learning U.S. Way Of Life
by U.S. Army Pfc. Michael Baumberger
August 30, 2021
Moving to a different country can be
intimidating and difficult due to challenges and unfamiliarity, but
if one joins an organization that values diversity, equity, and
inclusion, such as the U.S. Army, one has room to adapt and develop.
is the case with Pvt. Ngan La, a human resources specialist with 1st
Armored Brigade Combat Team (1ABCT), 1st Infantry Division (1ID),
who took the challenge head on by joining the U.S. Army five years
after moving to the U.S. from Vietnam.
At 21 years old, La and her mother decided
to pack up and move from their home in Vietnam to the U.S., leaving
behind their family. The decision was made to explore new options
and find a new way of life.
“I feel like there is more
opportunity for us,” La said, “opportunity for us to go to school
and have more freedom.”
La and her mother moved to the U.S.
in 2015 and lived in Georgia. La began working in a beauty and nail
salon while also pursuing an online degree part-time.
to continue to go to school for business because I love the idea of
business,” La said.
After some time, La began exploring her
options and decided she would join the U.S. Army. She saw it as an
opportunity to further her career while also providing free
education. Not only did she do it for the benefits but also to give
back to the country that gave her a new life.
“I want to
serve the country,” La said with a smile. “I appreciate the United
States, and I love the Army uniform.”
Along with this
opportunity, she knew there would be challenges. The U.S. Army would
test La’s physical and mental endurance. Army Basic Combat Training
(BCT) tests an individual's abilities in self-discipline, sacrifice,
loyalty, obedience and attention to detail.
physical training (PT) was the biggest challenge for me,” La said.
“I had never done PT before I joined the Army.”
La said she
worked hard and gave 100% effort every time they did physical
training. Her friends that she had made were also there to give her
the little extra motivation that she needed.
challenge for La was the language barrier. She knew the past years
of learning English would be put to the test. The drill sergeants
speak with an intense tone and volume that is sometimes difficult
for native English speakers to understand. La would overcome the
challenge with some help from her peers at BCT.
“I mean, it
was kind of hard a little bit, but the females in my platoon helped
me a lot,” La said. “When I didn’t understand something, they would
explain it to me.”
Shortly after completing BCT and Advanced
Individual Training (AIT), La would find herself stationed at Fort
Riley, Kan., home of the 1st Infantry Division, as a 42A, human
Two months later, she received orders
to deploy to Poland in support of Atlantic Resolve. Since April
2014, U.S. Army Europe and Africa have led the Department of
Defense’s Atlantic Resolve land efforts by rotating units based in
the U.S. to Europe.
“I like traveling,” La said. “I’m excited
to learn something new about a different country, and I want to
challenge and improve myself.”
La is excited to gain
experience in her career field while in Poland. She is fresh out of
AIT and ready to expand her skillset.
Expanding this skill
set comes with obstacles that she overcomes on a daily basis. A big
part of her job is communicating with soldiers. They sometimes don’t
understand her English, but this doesn’t stop her from staying
motivated and excelling at her job.
Staff Sgt. Jocelyn Alcide,
a unit supply specialist with 1ABCT, 1ID, mentioned how well Pvt. La
has integrated into the Army.
“She adapted very well,” Alcide
said. “She’s extremely smart as a private; she's even doing an E-6
(staff sergeant) job in the human resources shop.”
“I like my
job because I can support and assist different Soldiers.” La said.
La now lives a different life than what she was used to living
in Vietnam. She had a desire to change her life and create
opportunities, proving that she won’t let obstacles stop her from
her goals. Moving away from home can be a daunting obstacle,
especially when you’re moving halfway across the world.
“It’s an opportunity to change your life,” La said. “If you have a
bad life, you can change it for yourself. People are normally scared
of change, but it can be the best for you.”
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