Chilean-born Soldier gets unexpected life in U.S.
September 16, 2010
- CW4 Sergio Diaz joined the Army after seeing how it changed his brother
- 20 years later, the field artillery intelligence officer is the senior warrant officer in his field within TF Marne
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq -- Moving to the U.S. was a childhood dream for one Task Force Marne warrant officer - becoming a Soldier was not.
However, after Chief Warrant Officer 4 Sergio Diaz saw how the Army changed his brother, he changed his mind. Now, 20 years later, the field artillery intelligence officer is the senior warrant officer in his field within TF Marne. He is also the task force's senior targeting officer and in charge of creating "wanted" rewards for violent extremists in northern Iraq.
Chief Warrant Officer Diaz was born in Santiago, Chile, and lived there until his late 20s, when he moved to the United States.
His grandmother raised him after his mother passed away, and his father left the country when it came under communist rule in the 1970s.
"My father lived in the U.S. since 1971 when the communist regime came to Chile," explained Chief Warrant Officer Diaz, who now calls Miami his home. "I maintained communication with my father over the phone and sometimes through the mail. He was not really good at communicating, but every time I talked to him, he would say great things about the U.S. and how free he felt. Ever since he left, the only thing on my mind was wanting to go to the U.S. and live with my dad. It became an obsession."
After graduating college, Chief Warrant Officer Diaz began to set his roots. He got married, had a daughter and a good job with a software company. One day, he received an unexpected call from his father in Florida asking him if he wanted to move to the U.S. That meant leaving behind his job, all of his friends and his Family still living in Chile.
Chief Warrant Officer Diaz said that after his father asked him to move to the U.S., he accepted, but wanted to make sure that all the proper paperwork was completed. He wanted to be able to reside in the U.S. legally.
"When I came to the U.S. in 1988, we moved to Daytona (Fla.), but the jobs weren't really good there, and I did not speak any English except for the little bit I had learned in school," Chief Warrant Officer Diaz said. "So, we moved to Miami. I worked several jobs there and ended up with a great job at the international airport."
After seeing his younger brother join the Army and return a changed man, Chief Warrant Officer Diaz spoke with him about the Army and soon thereafter found himself contemplating a new career and lifestyle.
"My brother, Victor, joined the Army," said Chief Warrant Officer Diaz. "When he came back from basic training he was completely different. He had been tiny; when he came back he was huge. We sat down and he talked to me about the Army, how great he thought it was, and all the good things he had done. He sold me on it. Right after he left for his assignment to Germany, I went to see the recruiter and joined.
"I originally did not want anything to do with the military," he said. "In Chile, the military is completely different, but because I went to college I didn't have to join [the Chilean military]. When I came to the U.S., the last thing I wanted to do was be a Soldier, but when I saw my brother and the way he changed, I just made the decision. I talked to a recruiter, who also sold me on the Army and the job of cannon crewmember."
After achieving the rank of sergeant in three years, Chief Warrant Officer Diaz realized that he might want to stay in the Army past his first eight years. To do so, Army regulation required that he become a U.S. citizen. That requirement was rescinded in 2002. He wanted to become a U.S. citizen - but not just to stay in the Army.
"I had intended to do my four years active and then four years in the Reserve to complete my enlistment," said Chief Warrant Officer Diaz. "I did really well in my first three years and really liked what I was doing. One reason I stayed in was because in that time I had one of the best NCOs in my career. I decided that I would do another four years instead of going to the Reserve.
"I was only a resident in the U.S., and I knew that to do more than eight years in the Army, I would have to become a citizen," he said. "I didn't want to go through the Army to do it though. I wanted to be a citizen because it was my choice, not because of the Army. I did all the paperwork for my Family and myself as a civilian. I sent it all in myself, and I paid the fees. I can say that it was my own decision; it was not based on staying in the Army.
"I have been in the Army for 20 years because I love this, not because I had to do it to get my citizenship," he concluded.
During his career, Chief Warrant Officer Diaz has served in many places and met many people. During an assignment to Fort Carson, Colo., he met a fellow warrant officer with whom he now serves with in TF Marne. Chief Warrant Officer 3 Houston Burke, the division targeting officer for TF Marne, views Chief Warrant Officer Diaz as a mentor and friend.
"He is very professional, the best mentor I have had as a warrant officer," said Chief Warrant Officer Burke. "He greatly loves his work, but he also places his love and care for his Family above that. That is one of the things I admire about him."
According to Chief Warrant Officer Diaz, the U.S. offers many things that people who are born here do not notice, freedoms and rights that are not realized unless you have not had them before.
"It has been a great 20 years wearing the uniform," said Chief Warrant Officer Diaz. "I think some people born in the United States don't realize how much they have, especially compared to those of us that come from different countries and become U.S. citizens. It is a blessing to honestly understand that the United States is a blessed country."