Leyte native graduates a Leyte Dragon
July 28, 2011
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- In an interesting twist, one graduating Soldier from the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment found that she had a unique connection to the unit: the unit’s moniker, the Leyte Dragons, got its name from the battle fought in her hometown.
“My town is five minutes away from the beach where the battle was fought,” said Pvt. Genievev Sims, who graduates from Basic Combat Training today. “In the Philippines, joining the Army is a positive thing, and I’m looking forward to serving and learning new things.”
In 1944, the Battle of Leyte in the Philippines marked the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific during World War II. Fort Jackson’s 1-34th fought during the battle, and performed so courageously that the unit received the Presidential Unit Citation for valor and became known as the Leyte Dragons.
Sims, who was a pharmacist in the Philippines, moved to Maryland from the Philippines in 2008 and worked at a staffing agency. She saw the opportunity to learn more in the Army, so she enlisted.
“My family was very worried about me joining the Army because I am so shy, but they still supported me,” Sims said. The support from her family back home is not just in thoughts or words. Her mother, Calypso Noger, traveled from the Philippines to celebrate with Sims this week.
“I had four layovers on the plane to get here. I went from Leyte to Manila, Manila to Narita, then to Minneapolis and finally to Buffalo, New York,” Noger said. “We drove down here from Buffalo. I came just for this, there’s no way I would have missed this for her.”
Noger said she noticed a change in her daughter immediately after she completed training.
“When I saw her in uniform I couldn’t believe it. I see so much courage in her that I never saw before and she has so many friends now.”
Sims was introduced to the Army at an early age, according to her mother.
“Back home, we have a celebration every Oct. 20 to mark the landing of MacArthur on our beach,” Noger said. “When she was little, her dad used to put her up on his shoulders so she could see all the planes and ships in the water for the celebration. Now she’s the one in the Army, but she’s still my little girl. I’m so proud of her.”
Sims’ drill sergeant, Staff Sgt. Daniel Rocks, said the Soldier has made a transformation worth celebrating.
“This is a tough transition for all Soldiers. But, when she first got here, she was very timid and barely spoke,” Rocks said. “Now she jokes around with everybody else and does all the right things that she is supposed to do.” Sims said the training has been fun and very challenging. “I’ve really enjoyed basic so far and I’m very thankful to my drill sergeants. Without them, I could not have made it this far.”
The connection between her hometown and her battalion has brought Sims a little bit of comfort during her time training at Fort Jackson.
“It was good to hear them talk about Leyte. I do miss it. I miss my family and the work I used to do there,” Sims said. “But I want to try all of the new experiences here. I want to serve in the Army and see if I can pass the pharmacy exam here so that I can change my military occupational specialty to be a technician like I was at home.”
Sims became a naturalized U.S. citizen in a ceremony Wednesday and will begin her training as a food service specialist at Fort Lee, Va. Rocks said that Sims is prepared to achieve her military goals.
“She’s got a good head on her shoulders, and she’s driven. She will do well out there in the Army.”