AFGHANISTAN - "I didn't join for patriotic reasons or because I needed a job," said Spc. Nancy Vega. "I initially joined to get a skill set to help after the Army."

Within 13 months of joining, the truck driver with Echo Company, Forward Support Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, Combined Task Force Duke, explained how her entire perspective and motivation has changed.

Before the Army, Vega worked as a skills trainer. Private organizations hired skilled professionals to deal with special needs children such as those with autism, Down syndrome and learning disabilities.

"I simply tell people I was a school teacher," said Vega. "If they had a very challenging child, they would hire us and we would help facilitate and assist helping them develop the skills they needed depending on what goals they had."

"Joining the Army was impulsive," said the Mililani, Hawaii, native. "After getting in and seeing so much pride and honor, which I thank my NCOs for, my mind is open to different perspectives."

Vega said there is a history everywhere you go that she was not aware of. Now, seeing and knowing there were people before her, her motivation is to uphold that honor and pride and to become the best soldier she can become.

A task she sees coming to fruition during her enlistment, which will help shape her into the officer she sees herself becoming.

"She is a team player and a hard worker," said Staff Sgt. Ronald Canty, maintenance platoon sergeant. "Vega has a great grasp of knowledge and is always willing to learn and teach others."

Missing the cut off age to go to officer candidate school after basic combat training, Vega received guidance to go enlisted for a year then put in her packet to go OCS.

Now, presently deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Vega serves with a unit responsible for recovery. She is responsible for counter-improvised explosive device tools, ensuring everything is ready and the equipment is working.

"I'm very happy I went through enlisted because I see different sides of the ranks," said Vega. "At first, I didn't understand the difference between the two... officers deal more with administration and the enlistment deals more with hands on involvement."

Hands on training, such as what she has learned from working closely with an infantry unit, is the type of training and experience Vega hoped to receive to increase her skill set for when she becomes a commissioned officer.

"I don't see it as a segregation thing," said Vega. "We are side by side, all together. I'm excited to learn a lot of boots on ground things, [combative] and marksmanship."

Vega said she enjoys law enforcement and weapons, and when she becomes an officer, she would like to be commissioned a military police officer. After the Army, she wants to use her experience to work in criminal investigation.

Until then, she is excited to continue learning everything she can to be the best soldier she can be.

"I don't like to be complacent, I like to move forward," said Vega. "I want to stay in the Army as long as I can physically handle it and remain cognitive of the standards and apply them."

Vega said so far all she has done is learn, and she is thankful for her noncommissioned officers and chain of command for always pushing her, and her peers, to excel.