• Posing at the Military Entrance Processing Station Sept. 12 here is a smiling Pvt. Thalia Santiago along with many Soldiers who helped her in her time of need. Pictured from left, Sgt. 1st Class Quincie Blackshear, liaison; Sgt. 1st Class Amayris Coomes, recruiter); Master Sgt. Jerald Phillips, Reserve Component Liaison Office; Col Ronald Childress Jr., Quartermaster School assistant commandant; Pvt. Thalia Santiago, Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Smart, liaison), Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Slyvester, liaison; Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Weeks, Recruiting Station commander; and Sgt. William Draughn, Recruiting Office Operations NCO

    Chain of care

    Posing at the Military Entrance Processing Station Sept. 12 here is a smiling Pvt. Thalia Santiago along with many Soldiers who helped her in her time of need. Pictured from left, Sgt. 1st Class Quincie Blackshear, liaison; Sgt. 1st Class Amayris...

  • Posing together and sharing a hug about eight years ago are (left) sisters Yamilex, Courtney and Thalia Santiago who is giving a victory sign noting their love.

    Three of a kind

    Posing together and sharing a hug about eight years ago are (left) sisters Yamilex, Courtney and Thalia Santiago who is giving a victory sign noting their love.

FORT LEE, Va. (Oct. 23, 2013) -- If you don't believe in miracles, the dilemma that faced an Army Reserve advanced individual training Soldier three days before she was set to graduate on Sept. 12 at Fort Lee may change your mind.

After learning that Pvt. Thalia Santiago would have no job or family to return to following graduation as a food service specialist, the Reserve Component Liaison Office, 23rd Quartermaster Brigade, performed some heartwarming actions to help reset the Army career of the 18-year-old.

All ended well and she has a fresh start. Santiago reported for active duty as a cook at Fort Stewart, Ga., Sept. 17, and was promoted to private first class.

A transfer to the active component could take months but the Lee RCLO team worked swiftly to make it happen.

"This is a Cinderella story -- Soldiership at its best," said Lt. Col. Douglas E. Osborn, RCAO, U.S. Army Quartermaster School. "It's all about how we take care of our Soldiers in their hour of personal need on or off the job. We have a core value of taking care of Soldiers."

Santiago originally intended to return to Lowell, Mass., and a career in the Army Reserves with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 167th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, located inLondonderry, N.H. Circumstances, however, had changed for her while she was here for AIT. In addition to losing a civilian job, her foster parents had released her from their legal custody since she was now 18. On top of this, she would be separated from her two younger sisters Yamilex, 17, and Courtney, 12,who she loved dearly. Both were living in foster care with her former family.

Osborn credits Master Sgt. Jerald E. Phillips, Reserve Component Liaison Office, "who truly walks the walk of taking care of Soldiers."

Phillips learned the early afternoon of Sept. 9 from Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Sylvester, her assigned liaison, that "we have a situation," and could he meet with Santiago.

"She was overcome with emotion during our meeting and broke down several times talking about her desperate situation," he noted. "I had a long discussion with her and discussed several options. I informed her that this would be an uphill battle but we could see about her joining the active component."

Phillips noted, "I did not make any promises but would reach out to try to make things happen."

After the meeting, he called Santiago's Army Reserve unit contact in New Hampshire. "We determined the best solution was to get her transferred to active duty," said Phillips.

This Reserve unit was about 1 1/2 hours from Lowell, and presented an obstacle if she returned to live near her former home.

He said the entire process was implemented by Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Smart who reached out to many channels to accomplish this task. "Within hours, Smart made contact with the Colonial Heights Recruiting Station Commander Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Weeks," said Phillips.

The next day a recruiter, Sgt. 1st Class Amayris Coomes, came to Fort Lee with Santiago's packet for the active component. After Santiago officially graduated from the 92 Gulf training, Smart and Coomes escorted her to the Military Entrance Processing Station here.

Also at the transfer ceremony were Col. Ronald Childress Jr., QM School assistant commandant; Phillips, Weeks, Sgt. 1st Class Quincie Blackshear, liaison; Sgt. William Draughn, Recruiting Office Operations NCO; and several cadre from the 23 QM Brigade.

"Smart spent countless hours ensuring this process went smoothly," Phillips said. "Our entire team worked diligently to make all this happen without bending or breaking the rules."

The day Santiago was due to travel from MEPS to Fort Stewart, she was surprised when she was presented her two promotion orders from Phillips -- one to PV2 and another to private first class. "Both promotions were endorsed by her Reserve unit," he said, "since she completed her MOS training and met the mandatory promotion requirements."

"I have a feeling of so much relief," said Santiago. "I never expected it. They did a miracle for me, and I will be forever grateful."

Santiago is serving with the 3rd Infantry Division Headquarters Support Group at Fort Stewart and has reconnected with a cousin, Pfc. Carlos Silva, at the installation.

"On my promotions, I appreciate it," she noted. "It doesn't hurt to have extra money in your pocket. I have to save up for a car."

Santiago said, "I love doing my job at Fort Stewart -- we are constantly working. Being a 92G may seem easy, but it has many challenges. You need cooks everywhere so it feels good to be doing a job that is well appreciated. My current career goal is to become an NCO before my enlistment ends and then hopefully get relocated to Germany.

"I want to travel the world and see how other countries live and understand their culture," she added.

"I am very hopeful to get custody of my sisters -- they are like my own," she noted. "Since I was very young I was like a mother figure to them. Can you imagine a 9-year-old being overprotective with two younger siblings? They used to get so mad at me, but now they are used to me being like that. I push them to better themselves and let them know that I will never give up on them."

"Taking care of another Soldier was the right thing to do," said Phillips. "Our entire crew worked hard on this situation, and showed compassion. We all put ourselves in someone else's shoes.

"Sure we aged a little bit, but it was worth it," he concluded.

Phillips also gave thanks to the Beckley Recruiting Battalion in Richmond, Jeffery Doub, USAREC Enlistment Eligibility Processing, Fort Knox, Ky., who supported the RCLNO with Santiago's waivers and enlistment, and the Army representatives at Fort Lee MEPS for their "superb service."

old

If you don't believe in miracles, the dilemma that faced AIT Army Reserve Pvt. Thalia Santiago three days before she was set to graduate on Sept. 12 as a 92 Gulf food service specialist at Fort Lee, may change your mind.

After learning that Santiago had no job or family to return to following graduation, a cadre from the 23rd Quartermaster Brigade performed some heartwarming actions in just three days to help reset the Army career of the 18-year-old former Army Reservist.

All ended well. Santiago reported for active duty at Fort Stewart, Ga., Sept. 17, promoted to Pfc. in the active U.S. Army as a cook. A transfer to the Active Component could take months but the team worked together to make it happen in just three days.

"This is a Cinderella story," said Lt. Col. Douglas E. Osborn, Reserve Component Affairs Office, U.S. Army Quartermaster School. "It's all about how we take care of our Soldiers in their hour of personal need on or off the job. We have a core value of taking care of Soldiers.

Santiago originally intended to return to Lowell, Mass., and her career in the Army Reserves with the HHC 167th CSSB, following her rapidly approaching graduation. However, circumstances had changed for her. In addition to losing a civilian job, her foster parents had released her from their legal custody. She also would be separated from her two sisters she loved dearly and who were living with the foster family.

Osborn credits Master Sgt. Jerald E. Phillips "who truly walks the walk" of taking care of soldiers.

Phillips learned in the early afternoon on Sept. 9 from Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Sylvester, assigned liaison, that "we have a situation," and could he meet with Santiago.

"She was overcome with emotion during our meeting and broke down several times talking about her situation," he noted. "I had a long discussion with Pvt. Santiago and discussed several options, and informed her that this would be an uphill battle but we could see about her joining an Active Component."

Phillips noted, "I did not make any promises but would reach out to make things happen."

After the meeting, he called Santiago's Reserve unit in Londonderry, N.H. "We determined the best solution was to send her to the active component," said Phillips.

This unit was about 1 1/2 hours from Lowell, Mass., and this also presented an obstacle if she returned to live near her former home.

He said the entire process was implemented by Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Smart who reached out to many channels to accomplish this task. "Within hours, Smart made contact with the Colonial Heights Recruiting Station Commander Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Weeks," said Phillips.

The next day a recruiter, Sgt. 1st Class Amayris Coomes, came to Fort Lee with Santiago's packet for the Active Component. After Santiago officially graduated 92G Training, Smart and Coomes escorted her to and from MEPS.

At the transfer ceremony that day also were Col. Ron Childress, QM School assistant commandant; Phillips, Sgt. 1st Class NAME Blackshear, Sgt. lst Class Name Weeks, Recruiting Station commander. Sgt. NAME Draughn and a large group of 23 QM Brigade

"Smart spent countless hours ensuring this process went smoothly," Phillips said. "Our entire team worked delinquently to make all this happen, without bending or breaking the rules."

The day Santiago was due to ship from MEPS to Fort Stewart, she was surprised when I presented her two promotion orders, one to PV2 and another to Pfc. Both promotions were endorsed by her Reserve unit, since she completed her MOS training and met the mandatory promotion requirements."

"I have a feeling of so much relief," said Santiago. "I never expected it. They did a miracle for me and I will be forever grateful."

Santiago is serving with the 3ID , DHHB HSC at Fort Stewart, and has reconnected with a cousin, Pfc. Carlos Silva at Fort Stewart.

"On my promotions, I appreciate it," she noted. "It doesn't hurt to have extra money in your pocket, I have to save up for a car."

She said,"I love doing my job at Fort Stewart -- we are constantly working . Being a 92G may seem easy but it has many challenges. You need cooks everywhere so it feels good to be doing a job that is well appreciated. My current career goal is to become a NCO before my enlistment and then hopefully get relocated to Germany.

"I want to travel the world and see how other countries live and understand their culture," said Santiago.

"I am very hopeful to get custody of my sisters -- they are like my own . Since I was very young I was like a mother figure to them. Can you imagine a 9-year-old being over protective with two younger siblings? They use to get so mad at me but now they are use to me being like that. I push them to better themselves and let them know that I will never give up on them."

"Taking care of another Solider was the right thing to do," said Phillips. "Our entire crew worked hard on this situation, and showed compassion. We all put ourselves in someone else's shoes."

"Sure we aged a little bit, but it was worth it," he concluded.

Page last updated Wed October 23rd, 2013 at 15:26