Spc. Zach Lerma: Right Soldier, right place, right time
By Annette P. Gomes, Warrior Care and Transition

ARLINGTON, Va. - The rich oil fields in Texas is where U.S. Army Spc. Zach Lerma found work as a crew-member on an oil-rig, but after a few short years, Lerma says he desired something bigger.

"I wanted to do something more meaningful and I felt joining the Army was the next best thing," Lerma said.

Lerma enlisted in the Army in 2015 to be part of something bigger. However, after serving two years as a firefighter, an injury sidelined his promising Army career.

"We were getting ready to deploy and I re-injured my knee and tore my anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus again," Lerma said.

While healing at the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the former firefighter attended a job fair, where a poster describing the New Horizons Tech to Troops program caught his attention. Located in Florida, the program offers fast-track information technology certification training to Soldiers in their last year of military service. It is a decision Lerma says changed his life.

"I didn't really know a thing about computers. I probably knew as much as the average person going into the program. I simply liked to play with them and thought they were cool," Lerma fondly recalled. "I really didn't understand what you could do with them until I went through the school. It really made me appreciate the machines and what they do."

Approximately five days a week, eight hours a day, Lerma focused on his computer studies.

"I would stay up until around midnight reading and going over my notes and the practice tests that were given to us. On the weekends, I would study the most and prepare for test the following week on Monday." Lerma said.

In eight weeks, Lerma received a plethora of certifications including; Network Plus, Security Plus and Cyber Analyst.

"After many heartfelt motherly conversations with Zach about his future, he researched the certifications, enrolled in New Horizons Tech and completed many certifications. We are so proud of Zach and his accomplishments," said Lisa Ordukaya, Transition Coordinator at the Fort Bragg Warrior Transition Battalion.

"The opportunity presented itself and there was no turning back. Anything worth having says you are going to have to put in the work," Lerma said.

As Lerma looks toward his future and future employment, he says he has no regrets about the past.

"I'm relatively young. I still have a full life ahead of me and I have so much to learn and experience. I can't afford to be negative," Lerma said. "I have to play the cards I was dealt. I have to look after my wife and kids. I feel blessed. I was the right Soldier, in the right place, at the right time."