By Gino MattoranoDecember 7, 2015
Multinational training and security cooperation events give Soldiers the opportunity to collaborate and strengthen relationships with partner nations, but a recent training event also gave one Public Health Command Europe Soldier the chance to visit her homeland.
Spec. Kristina Chereshnieva, a Veterinary Food Inspection Specialist assigned to the Rheinland Pfalz Branch, Public Health Command District Northern Europe in Kaiserslautern, Germany, recently returned from the Ukraine where she participated in Exercise Fearless Guardian as a field interpreter.
"I was honored to be chosen to represent my unit and the U.S. Army, and proud to be a part of the mission to the Ukraine," Chereshnieva said.
The ongoing exercise involves approximately 300 paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade training Ukrainian National Guardsmen in Yavoriv, Ukraine. The effort, which Congress approved in 2014, is to help Ukraine better monitor and secure its border, operate more safely and effectively, and preserve and enforce its territorial integrity.
Since 2014, Chereshnieva, along with five PHCD-NE Soldiers, have been tasked with public health support activities, to include advising and assisting with food defense and sanitation, in support of exercises in the Ukraine.
Chereshnieva has been assigned to PHCD-NE for the past two years, and she jumped at the chance to support an exercise in her home country.
Chereshnieva was assigned to the Mayor's Cell, where she was tasked with interpreting for the U.S Army leadership team, as well as translating training materials that would be used to train Ukrainian Soldiers.
The Ukrainians were a bit surprised to learn that the translator was a fellow Ukrainian (now a U.S. Citizen) serving in the U.S. Army.
"It isn't common to see women in the Ukrainian Army, so they were surprised to learn that I was in the U.S. Army," Chereshnieva said. "Once they got over their surprise, they were very nice and many wanted to know how I got to be part of the U.S. Army. And they all wanted to know how much I get paid!"
While her translation duties kept her very busy, Chereshnieva saw the opportunity to contribute to the food safety mission by offering to do food inspections and establish hand-washing stations. Her leadership team says her efforts there helped prevent the spread of disease and helped ensure food safety and security for Soldiers.
"Specialist Chereshnieva is one of our top Soldiers," said Lt. Col. Michael Elliott, PHCD Northern Europe commander. "It's not every day you get a message from a deployed unit thanking you for sending such a high-speed Soldier, but that's a testament to the type of person she is. She saw the need, and took action. We are very proud of her, and I think she has an incredible career ahead of her."
The icing on the cake for Chereshnieva was that she got to see her mother and sister, who she hadn't seen in nearly eight years. Needless to say, Chereshnieva's mom was very proud of her daughter's accomplishments.
"It was so nice to see my mom and sister," she said. "We were able to meet in a city nearby, and we were so happy to see each other that we all cried."
Chereshnieva was born and raised in the Ukraine, but at the age of 20, she left her mother and sister behind and came to the United States to work in a summer camp in New Hampshire. From there she went to New York City, and with the help of family and friends in the city, she was able to find work and earn an associate's degree in nursing.
Unfortunately, she struggled to find work in the nursing field, but heard that the Army had a variety of careers in health care, so she decided to find out if she was Army Strong.
"I liked the idea of giving back to the country that has given me so much opportunity," Chereshnieva said. "I like discipline and structure and I was interested in the education benefits and the opportunity to travel, so I decided to join."
After completing basic training, Chereshnieva was trained as a Veterinary Food Inspection Specialist and assigned to PHCD Northern Europe at Kaiserslautern, Germany. She serves as the first line of defense to ensure food and water is wholesome and safe for consumption by military forces.
Now that she has returned home, Chereshnieva is preparing for a new assignment to the Great Lakes Naval Station, near Chicago, Ill., where she'll provide food inspection support for the Navy.
She also plans to return to school to work on her bachelor's degree in nursing, followed by a master's degree. She doesn't know how long she will remain in the Army, but she's grateful for the opportunities she's been given and excited to continue serving in the healthcare field.