By Charles MeltonMay 13, 2009
It's not every day that a commanding general performs the reenlistment ceremony for a lower enlisted Soldier, but that's exactly what happened on Monday as Fort Irwin and National Training Center commanding general Brig. Gen. Robert "Abe" Abrams reenlisted Spc. Natasha Ostienava.
Spc. Ostienava, who is of Lebanese and Russian heritage and was born in northern Lebanon, is the first soldier from the 51st Translator Interpreter Company at Fort Irwin to reenlist while being assigned to the unit instead of being attached to another unit in combat operations.
The 51st TICO is currently the only unit of its type in the Army, manned by Soldiers with the Military Occupational Speciality 09L, its mission is to prepare and deploy 09L Soldiers as individuals or small groups to provide "native heritage" translation, interpretation and cultural advice to Army, Joint, Special Operations Forces and select Inter-Agency Organizations.
Currently 21 TICO Soldiers are deployed in either Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom and the unit has participated in nine NTC rotations to prepare units for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq since it was stood up in October 2008.
"I did not reenlist for money," Spc. Ostienava said. "My No. 1 predominant reason for staying in the Army with this unit, the 51st TICO, is the command climate."
From Brig. Gen. Abrams on down the entire chain of command helped her with her decision to reenlist, she said.
"Had I not had the best chain of command I would not be here today," she said.
As part of her reenlistment, Spc. Ostienava has plans of becoming a commissioned officer through the Army's Green to Gold program.
"As a lower enlisted Soldier I was able to assist leaders to make the right decisions," said Spc. Ostienava, who served in Iraq from March 2007 to May 2008 as part of Multi-National Force-Iraq. "As an officer I will be able to make decisions for countries and other Soldiers."
During her deployment, she supported Operational Detachment Alphas, commonly referred to as "A-Teams" from both the 3rd and 10th Special Forces Groups.
In addition to her work with the military community, Spc. Ostienava also provided translation/interpretation support for civilian leaders including U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) , Mr. James Sindles from the U.S. Embassy and California Congresswoman Rep. Suzan Davis.
Spc. Ostienava, who reenlisted for two years, said her family has been extremely supportive of her decision to stay in the Army.
"They have a great deal of confidence in me and I have a great chain of command," she said after being sworn in by Brig. Gen. Abrams.
With the entire TICO surrounding him in horseshoe formation, Brig. Gen. Abrams called Spc. Ostienava's reenlistment ceremony "the most important thing I'll do all week."
"You know what it takes. You understand the sacrifice, and you understand what it takes, the commitment," he said. "So when someone like Spc. Ostienava says, 'Hey, I'm ready to do it again. Sign me up.' That's a big deal to you, especially to you, because you know there's a chance you might get launched again."
Brig. Gen. Abrams said he was impressed by Spc. Ostienava's dedication and her reasons for deciding to reenlist.
The Special Forces patch on Spc. Ostienava's right shoulder shows that she has already been deployed to multiple ODAs and with VIPs, because "of her outstanding skills and dedication," Brig. Gen. Abrams said.
"I suspect she's a great combat multiplier for any unit that's down range," he said. "It's unbelievable to have a trusted Soldier who is my trusted agent whenever I'm engaged in a conflict. I can't put a price on it."
What all TICO Soldiers bring to the Army is important, and the skill set each TICO Soldier brings to the Army is something unique that can't be recreated, he said.
"This is the first 09L Soldier to raise his or her right hand and reaffirm their oath to the country," Brig. Gen. Abrams said. "Our first reenlistee inside, so it's an incredible honor for me."