Stallion Soldier uses obstacles as motivation
October 2, 2012
Even with two hip surgeries only months apart, Kearny, N.J. native, Sgt. 1st Class Oscar Ayala, a platoon sergeant assigned to D Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, "Ironhorse" 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, still manages to outperform his Soldiers.
"I always wanted to be a Soldier," Ayala explained. "When I was in high school I told my recruiter I wanted to join the Army. I didn't ask for anything, I just joined."
Joining the National Guard in 1999, Ayala enlisted as a tanker. After a year and a half, he switched to active duty.
Serving in the position of platoon sergeant is special to Ayala.
"I never pictured myself being in the position I am in now," he said. "I mean, I am just one of many at my position, but going back to my childhood, I never thought I would have this impact on other Soldiers, or even [noncommissioned officers]."
After converting to active duty, Ayala was stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash. where he stayed for two years before moving to Fort Hood, Texas in 2003. When arriving to Fort Hood, Ayala was assigned to the Ironhorse Brigade.
Since 2003, Ayala has been deployed four times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn and the most recent in Kuwait, Operation Spartan Shield.
Although he has deployed numerous times, he has not let it affect his attitude towards the Army.
"I know I have younger Soldiers looking up to me," Ayala said, explaining his source of motivation. "I have to show my Soldiers that even though we go through tough times, we are still Soldiers and that's what we get paid to do. We have to get the mission accomplished whether we are going through good or bad times."
Chicago native, Spc. Sam Garcia feels as though he can look to Ayala for guidance and leadership.
"(Ayala) has always been approachable," Garcia said about his respected mentor. "He's (seasoned) and I know I can count on him to help me when I need him most."
During the OIF '06 to'08 deployment, Ayala sustained a hip injury. While getting it checked out, the doctor informed him of a crack on his hip that needed to be fixed. During his check-up, problems were found in both hips resulting in a dual surgery.
Ayala's first surgery was April 2011 with his second following less than two months later in June 2011.
Even with the surgeries in such a small time frame and the amount of pain that comes along with it, he has not let it stagger his motivation.
"I am still motivated, probably a little more," Ayala said about the emotional impact of the surgery. "I learned to ignore the majority of the pain. Whether I am injured or not, I still go up there and lead my guys."
Even after two hip surgeries, Ayala still receives a perfect score, of 300, on his physical fitness test, consisting of two minutes of push-ups, sit-ups and a two-mile run.
"I feel as though I set the bar for my platoon," Ayala said about his success. "If I can do it, they can too. A lot of my guys see me trying and they get behind me, it keeps me and them motivated."
This past year, Ayala was the tank commander of the Ironhorse tank team that participated in the prestigious Sullivan Cup, a competition testing tanker's skills across the United States Army.
During the competition, the first event was a PT test. Ayala was one of only two competitors to earn a perfect score of 300.
"It made me feel that although I am on the older side of the competitors, that age is just a number," Ayala said about his physical condition. "It's all in how you maintain yourself."
Garcia finds his leader to be strong-willed and highly respected, but he isn't the only one who recognizes his determined personality. Ayala's wife of 25 years, Katherine, is also aware of his self-motivation.
"(Katherine) keeps telling me to slow down on the physical side of work, exercising and such," Ayala chuckled. "But I remind her I am a leader and I can't lead my Soldiers from the rear. She understands and is very supportive of my choices."
With everything that has happened, Ayala has a supportive wife helping him push through his obstacles.
"It's a little bit hard," Ayala said, talking about maintaining his positive attitude in front of his Soldiers. "But like I tell my guys, even though we go through tough times, I am a Soldier."