CHARLESTON, W. Va. -- West Virginia Army National Guard Capt. Joseph Reppert graduated from West Virginia University with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Master of Arts in linguistics, but wasn't aware of how his expertise would shape his military career.
At age 33, the Bridgeport, West Virginia native was named the West Virginia National Guard State Partnership Program liaison to Peru and attached to the United States Embassy in Lima for his term of service.
Formerly an enlisted Air Force medic, Reppert separated after four years and used all of his Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to obtain a bachelor's and master's degree in order to become an officer in the military. He joined the West Virginia Army National Guard as an engineer, serving as platoon leader and executive officer for the 115th Vertical Construction Company in Clarksburg and Kingwood before being offered the opportunity to fill a position with the SPP.
Reppert's official job is the Traditional Commander's Activities coordinator for the U.S. Southern Command, Component Commands, and the West Virginia State Partnership Program, or WV-SPP.
"WV-SPP serves as a long-term support mechanism for the Peruvians," Reppert said. "[The] primary request from the Peruvian military is support in enhancing their natural disaster responses. Peru annually endures damages from forest fires, earthquakes, and huaycos (flash flooding). Our National Guard in West Virginia is trained and equipped to respond to natural disasters and helps to serve as a great partner to bring us, Peru and the United States as a whole together, thereby enhancing their interoperability."
When Reppert joined the Army National Guard, he was unaware of the SPP program or its mission.
"To be honest, I did not know about the SPP," Reppert said. "Leadership reached out to me one day because they knew I had a Spanish degree and asked me to help translate with Peruvians. From there on out, I helped out with SPP events, even came down to Peru for three months to work a mission where I ended up finding this long term opportunity."
Reppert said that having the opportunity to work overseas in an embassy is largely due to having a language proficiency.
"In my position, they have had workers who had no language ability and were sent back to the States after a few months," he explained. "This position has given me the incredible opportunity to explore and adventure through South America. If you get the opportunity to live outside of the U.S. for an extended period of time, you should take it. You won't regret life experience."
Reppert, who began his study of Spanish in high school, has said that there is no doubt in his mind that language ability opens doors.
"I never knew where I wanted to be in five years, and I still don't, but having a Spanish proficiency has kept me employed and sent me places I'll never forget," he said. "Nobody is perfectly fluent, just keep practicing, and eventually you may end up someplace remarkable."