OTF Soldier Story for July 4, 2011 - Capt. Ranjini Danaraj
Current Unit: U.S. Army Student Detachment at Georgetown University
Current Position: Joint Chief of Staff Intern
Component: Active Army
Current Location: Washington, D.C.
Hometown: Redmond, Wash.
Years of Service: 9
When Capt. Ranjini Danaraj first joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) more than a decade ago, she was simply looking for a way to pay for her college degree. Yet, by the time she graduated from the University of Southern California in 2002, she had begun to envision a lifelong career in the military. Eight years later, she has not regretted her decision to serve. With four overseas deployments and nearly two graduate degrees under her belt, Danaraj has been able to fulfill both her career and education goals.
“The Army helped me find my identity after college. My service has been very rewarding. It has made me more confident, allowed me to be financially stable and enabled me to travel all over the world,” she said.
Through her travels, Danaraj found her niche as a young leader on the battlefield. During her most recent deployment to Iraq last year, she served as a company commander for the 66th Military Police Company.
There she worked closely with the Iraqi Police in order to both strengthen their investigative abilities and raise their situational awareness of enemy activities. Her unit was able to develop a strong rapport with their Iraqi counterparts, who were eager to develop more advanced operational capabilities.
“In the vast majority of the relationships we had, the Iraqi Police were very accepting and interested in what we offered,” she said. “We got along very well with them.”
The unit’s mission was to advise and train members of the Iraqi police to help them become an independent force, but signs of progress were not always immediate and measurable. As a result, Danaraj was faced with the additional challenge of keeping the junior enlisted Soldiers in the company motivated and inspired.
“The challenge was helping the junior Soldiers to understand the value of what they were doing even though they weren't necessarily seeing the results of their efforts,” she said.
But before Danaraj and her Soldiers returned home, they were able to see firsthand the fruit of their labors.
“When we had a graduation ceremony for Iraqi Police students, the graduates suddenly broke into song about how proud they were to serve their country and how they were going to take the fight to the enemy,” she said. “It was one of those moments when you can’t help but feel proud about what you do.”
The successes under Danaraj’s leadership overseas have not gone unrecognized. For meritorious service throughout her deployments, she received two Bronze Star Medals.
Since returning home, she accepted a new assignment with the Army. Beginning this summer, she will spend a year at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., earning a master's degree in policy management. Afterwards, she will serve two one-year rotations interning first with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and later with the Chief of Staff of the Army.
“I initially enlisted as a way to fund my college education, but a love of the values embraced by the organization, the people I met and the experiences I’ve had, have kept me serving in uniform,” she said. “I am motivated by what I do and I’m fulfilled by what I do – not everyone can say that about their job.”