Year of the Noncommissioned Officer - Spotlight NCO
May 15, 2009
Staff Sgt. Saphal Heng and Sgt. 1st Class Jacqueline Habaluyas
<b>Age:</b> Heng: 26, Habaluyas: 28
<b>Current Unit:</b> Seattle Recruiting Battalion
<b>Current Position:</b> Recruiter
<b>Component:</b> Active Army
<b>Current Location:</b> Seattle, Wash.
<b>Hometown:</b> Heng: Long Beach, Calif., Habaluyas: Philippines
<b>Years of Service:</b> 9
Army Recruiters Staff Sgt. Saphal Heng and his wife, Sgt. 1st Class Jacqueline Habaluyas, have been Army Soldiers longer than they have been American citizens. Their service to their country has provided them with opportunities to travel the world and provide new direction for their future together.
While their pathways to service and citizenship are similar, their childhoods took place on opposite sides of the globe. Although his family is of Cambodian descent, Heng was born in Thailand and moved to America when he was only six months old. Habaluyas, born and raised in the Philippines, did not move to the United States until after graduating high school.
The pair crossed paths after enlisting for individual reasons in the Army in 2000. As a high school student, Heng had no direction for his future. Thanks to the influence of a neighbor in the Marine Corps, he participated in his high school's Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC). The program gave him a taste of what the military had to offer, and after graduation, he enlisted in the Army. For Habaluyas, she enlisted for the educational opportunities and as a Soldier student, she received her bachelor's degree in 2006 from the University of Maryland.
The couple met when they were assigned to Fort Lewis, Wash. in the fall of 2001 and as members of the 69th Chemical Company, they deployed together to Iraq from 2003-2004. The couple recalls that they only saw each other briefly while in theater because they had different missions. Heng, as a Chemical Operation Specialist, was responsible for operating and performing operator maintenance on smoke generating equipment and going on convoy missions. Habaluyas, however, was assigned to classified missions during her 15-month deployment.
Now nearly a decade after enlisting, Heng and Habaluyas find themselves on the other side of the table as recruiters. They ask prospective Soldiers what strengths and skills they could bring to the Army, while sharing their own service experiences. Heng and Habaluyas are the first in both of their families to serve as Soldiers in the Army as American citizens. Heng was naturalized in 2001 and his wife was naturalized in 2002.
The couple, who were married in August 2008, currently resides in Seattle, Wash., where they serve as Army recruiters with the Seattle Recruiting Battalion. They are part of the Married Army Couple Program, which allows them to continue to serve together in the same location.