By 1st Lt. Joseph WyattMarch 15, 2018
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii- It is 7 a.m. on a brisk Oahu morning. The Forward Support Company, 84th Engineer Battalion is wrapping up an Army physical fitness test with the first group of runners coming in; one runner standing out in front of the pack. He seems almost disappointed as he crosses the finish line first. His noncommissioned officer shouts "You scored above a 300, be excited!" The Soldier responded with "Sergeant, I know I can do even better...and next time, I will."
The Soldier is Cpl. Lie Wu, a 31 year old wheeled vehicle mechanic originally from Xi'an, China. His hard work, determination, and dedication took him far beyond the Schofield Barracks track, as he recently earned the coveted ranger tab.
Ranger school is the Army's premier combat leadership and small unit tactics course. One of the toughest physical, mental and emotional challenges many of the Soldiers will ever face, only 36% of those who start Ranger School obtain the tab.
For more than two months, Ranger students train to exhaustion, pushing the limits of their minds and bodies. Oriented towards small-unit tactics and training volunteers to engage in close combat and direct-fire battles, the school has three phases: Benning, Mountain, and Florida. In the last 12 years, there have only been 42 Soldiers in Wu's military specialty to complete the course.
Wu said for him the hardest part was something that fueled his determination, the fear of disappointing others.
"I was scared to fail others, the expectations of my unit, my family. Especially when I was recycled and had just one more chance. When I was in leadership, you have to do your best. But even when you're not, you also have to do your best to support your ranger buddies," he said.
Wu has been in the Army for only 28 months and currently serves as a wheeled vehicle mechanic in the 84th Engineer Battalion's Forward Support Company (FSC), 130th Engineer Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command.
"I originally wanted to be a mechanic. It was something I knew nothing about and I wanted to learn a new skill," said Wu. He takes pride in fixing vehicles and enjoys repairing or replacing broken parts. The battalion's unique mission allows Wu the chance to use his mechanical skills on everything from High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (or HMMWV) and Light Medium Tactical Vehicles, to generators and containerized kitchens.
Before joining the Army, Wu earned a Masters of Business Administration with a focus on general management from Troy University in Montgomery, Alabama in 2014.
"As I was obtaining my MBA, the plan was to get a managerial job, which I did for seven months upon graduation. I found that I didn't like sitting in front of the computer," said Wu. That is when he decided to join the Army.
Even during basic training, his military ambitions were already expanding into something much more than a desire to avoid missions tied to a computer screen. "I heard lots of stories about the rangers during basic training and wanted to be a part of it. I eventually want to work in special forces," he said.
Wu joked that the motivation to come to the United States was by accident, following the lead of a friend.
"My best friend wanted to come to America to study. I had just graduated from college and I did not have a job in China. So he said let's go to the U.S. and get another degree. I came here as a student and started loving it here," he said.
Wu's short but successful military career thus far was made possible by the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program. A small and very exclusive program that benefitted immigrants and the U.S. military, MAVNI provided the path to Wu's U.S. citizenship in 2015.
When asked what makes him most proud of being an American and living here, he says it's the way people treat one another, and promote diligence.
"Here, I feel everyone respects each other, and people work hard. As long as you work hard- people are going to recognize you- that's a thing I like," Wu said.
Aside from his higher education and military ambitions, Wu spends his downtime doing what many Soldiers enjoy: running. "Running helps me remain healthy. I like exploring and making my own path. It is an adventure," said Wu.
He also enjoys the thrill of spear fishing on the weekends on Oahu's North Shore.
Wu's ranger school experience did not end on his January graduation day. He plans on bringing his knowledge and leadership skills back to his fellow logisticians in the FSC. "Everything follows the five principles of patrols. The leadership skills I learned at ranger school will help me train and lead Soldiers in my future as I continue to progress in both my field and the Army," said Wu.
With the support of his family, Wu plans on making Army service a career. Currently, Wu is focusing on getting promoted to Sergeant and pursuing career opportunities in special operations.