DRAGONKASERNEN, Denmark -- The sound of engines roaring, bolts being removed from a tire and power tools being used are nothing new to an Army mechanic conducting daily maintenance on vehicles.

Pvt. Daniel Hernandez, who hails from San Jose, California, is an M1A2 Abrams main battle tank system maintainer with 64th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.

He worked at a collision repair center before he joined the Army but literally has come a long way since then. This week he finds himself in Denmark supporting tank crews from Battle Company, 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, which will compete in the Nordic Tank Challenge from May 15-18.

"I didn't finish high school," said Hernandez. "At 23 years old, I decided to go back to school and get my diploma and joined the military, and my wife joined with me. School was a little difficult because at an older age, you're already living life, you have more responsibilities, and I was already married."

But Hernandez persisted because he felt a calling that went beyond self-interest.

"I felt the need to serve my country," said Hernandez. "I believe every citizen should at least serve one term in the military for our country. A lot of people don't realize the privilege they have living in a free country and living off the sacrifices of someone's mother, father, son, daughter, sister or brother. I feel that everyone should give something back. That was my passion for joining."

Hernandez plans to continue his education and open up an automotive business one day.

"I've always liked working on vehicles," said Hernandez. "This is a good job because I get to work on some of the most powerful vehicles in the military. Most of it is the same concept, but you have the opportunity to be universal."

Hernandez is passionate about working on tanks and other vehicles.

"We put so many hours into ensuring that the tanks and vehicles are operable," said Hernandez. "Our priorities are to fix the tanks. We ensure that they are ready anytime and any day."

Hernandez was hand selected to support the Nordic Tank Challenge competition. The competition tests the prowess of top tankers from NATO Allied and partner nations while giving the crews an opportunity to learn from one another. But it's a unique opportunity for the enablers who traveled with the tank crews to provide maintenance and further support.

"I feel really blessed that I was chosen as a maintainer for the Abrams for the Nordic Tank Challenge," said Hernandez. "From tankers to mechanics, it was a crew well selected because we all have put in our efforts getting us here to participate in this competition, win, and learn from our Allies."

Like Hernandez, the competition also is a new experience for Spc. Laura Barajas, a wheeled vehicle mechanic for 64th BSB and an opportunity to learn from peers from other countries.

"It's an honor to be here working with the Danish Soldiers who are mechanics. Pvt. Hernandez is a good Soldier and loves what he does, so it makes working with him fun," said Barajas, a Dallas-Fort Worth native.