REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- One Soldier keeps fighting to inspire his unit as he aspires to be a champion.

Spc. Gadiel Mendez Andino, a satellite communication systems operator and maintainer with Company B, 53rd Signal Battalion, stationed at Fort Meade, Maryland, began boxing in May 2015 and looks to be one of the top Army boxers by the end of the year.

"I would like to thank God for keeping my loved ones and myself healthy and safe," Mendez said. "I began competing because I remember as a child in Puerto Rico when one of the country's famous boxers would fight just about everyone would stop to watch him and in that hour or so whoever you were and whatever problems you had would be forgotten because you'd be so immersed in the event.

"After every win there would be celebrations up and down every street and now that I'm older, I want to be that reason for people's happiness," he added.

Hailing from Carolina, Puerto Rico, Mendez joined the Army in Atlanta, Georgia, in October 2016 with the goal of serving as well as making the Army's World Class Athlete Program.

Mendez began boxing for the Army during the All-Army Championship at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, March 14 and 16 where he joined Soldiers from installations around the world. After that competition, he then headed to the 2019 Western Olympic Trials Qualifiers in Reno, Nevada, March 23-30 where he lost on day two by a split decision.

With a current record of 6-2, Mendez hopes to compete in the Eastern Qualifiers in Columbus, Ohio, in October.

"The unit has been very supportive of me and my goals in boxing by simply allowing me to compete and that is the most important thing for a junior Soldier," Mendez said. "With our unit's duty being mission essential and 24/7, it is hard to balance training for boxing with the long hours of shift work. I met a boxer out of Baltimore at this past tournament and I hope to be able to train at his gym for these five months leading up to this upcoming Olympic qualifier tournament because I know if I get the chance to properly train I can qualify.

"It feels great representing my unit when I compete because being a boxer in my line of duty is so out of the norm, but I like to show through my actions that you can be more than what people expect of you, you can do whatever you want if you are willing to sacrifice for it," he added.

Mendez said that as he looks forward to training and competing, he also wanted to remind fans that boxing is a sport that requires the same focus as others.

"What people may not understand about boxing is that just because you and your opponent are punching each other that doesn't mean you're in a fight," Mendez said. You are boxing and boxing is a sport. Sometimes you let the crowd, through cheers or boos, get you away from the strategy you need to win, but it's all about out boxing your opponent."