Black Jack Soldier prepares to go from green to gold
November 16, 2007
FORWARD OPERATING BASE PROSPERITY, Iraq - When Spc. Emmanuel Danso first approached his company commander, Capt. Greg Turner about his interest in becoming a commissioned officer, Turner replied with his usual response to such inquiries.
"I've had probably a half-dozen people come to me and say, 'I want to be an officer, sir,' and I basically say, 'Yeah, yeah, whatever. Show me,'" Turner said.
Turner, the commander of Company E, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, which is currently attached to the 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd "Black Jack" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, explained that this type of response is not necessarily meant to deter a Soldier, but instead to see how dedicated he is to getting what he's asking for.
"People expect me to write a memo for them that says, 'You are hereby nominated,' but it doesn't work like that," Turner said. "A lot of people say they want to be officers, but not many people show the commitment to go through with it and are willing to put the work in themselves.'
'That was the difference with Danso though, he came back - he followed it up."
According to Danso, the thought of becoming an officer never crossed his mind when he joined the Army two years ago, but he knew he wanted to finish college. When he realized he could do both with the Army's Green to Gold program; however, he jumped at the opportunity.
"Green to Gold is a program where you ask the military to go back to school and the military also puts you in an ROTC program where you're serving at the same time," Danso explained. "You finish your school and then you get your commission and then you return to serve the same amount of time that you spent in the Green to Gold back in the regular service, as well as the three year ROTC commitment.."
Danso, who is originally from Ghana, West Africa, said he first started looking at the program after gaining his U.S. citizenship earlier this year during a mass naturalization ceremony held in Baghdad on the Fourth of July.
The first step for Danso was selecting a school and then gaining acceptance into a program there, a process that he said took several months.
"I spent a long time looking at different universities across the entire United States," he said. "I just looked at a university where the requirements and my requirements paralleled."
Eventually, he settled on Liberty University, located in Lynchburg, Va., and began the application process.
"It's tougher here because of how long the mail takes," he said. "Stateside, I'd say if someone's really dedicated to doing this it would probably take max about two weeks. But here it took me about two and a half months."
Around the beginning of August, Danso learned that he had been accepted into Liberty and its ROTC program, and then went back to Turner with the news.
"It took several times to go through my company commander, which was good," he said. "I'm actually lucky that my commanding officer did ROTC because he knew a little bit more about it and was able to brief me on what to expect and what not to expect."
Turner said he spent several hours over the course of this entire process talking to Danso and trying to give him the right amount of advice and guidance, without doing too much for him.
"I talked to him about the traits of a professional Army officer: courage, candor, commitment, competence," he said, "and spent some time helping him with his packet, saying, 'OK, I think you want to do it this way, or hey, you're missing this part here,' and helping him do a better packet, but I didn't do any of it for him, he did it all himself.'
'As an officer you have to be self motivated and you have to be well organized enough that you can put your own packet together, and that's important because if he can't do his packet, he shouldn't be an officer."
In the end however, Turner said he was so impressed with Danso's commitment that he not only recommended him for the Green to Gold program, but for a scholarship that would cover all his expenses as well.
"The Green to Gold program, if it fits into your life situation, and I believe it does for Specialist Danso, it's probably the best way to become an officer in that you get to go to college and be a student again," Turner said. "He's a uniquely motivated person, and I think he'll be a good officer some day."
Danso said he is planning to major in criminal justice and minor in psychology, but once he receives his commission he is hoping to fulfill his seven year military obligation as an Apache helicopter pilot.
As far as becoming a career Army officer, Danso said that decision will have to wait, but so far he has no regrets about his decision to enlist.
"When I first came into the Army I wasn't really looking toward a career - I just wanted to serve, but I'd consider it," he said. "I can't make that decision now though. Of course, in seven years I could easily change my mind."
Danso recently redeployed back to Fort Hood, Texas with the Black Jack Brigade's advanced party to start making preparations for the brigade's upcoming redeployment, and will stay with his unit at Fort Hood until June of next year.
Next summer he will leave the unit that he has been a part of since joining the Army and begin the next chapter in his brief, but productive career.
"Since joining the Army, I've gotten my citizenship and now I'm going to get my college degree and become an officer," he said, "so whatever happens, this has been a great experience."