The Presidio of Monterey’s 229th Military Intelligence Battalion held a memorial service March 11 for Spc. Ryan Tasso, who had graduated from the Russian Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Program in December of 2020.
More than 100 service members, military leadership and instructors participated in the event, all socially distanced and masked. The service was organized in two locations, one half at the Presidio and the other in San Angelo, Texas, at Goodfellow Air Force Base, where Tasso had been attending follow-on training after graduating from DLIFLC.
“We are all shocked and saddened by his sudden passing,” said 229th MI BN Commander Lt. Col. Matthew Upperman. “Ryan’s passing is not only a stark reminder of how precious and fleeting life is, but also the impact that someone can make in such a short period of time on so many,” he said. “I think we also gain strength and resolve by reflecting on the man that Ryan was and the model Soldier and teammate he represented.”
According to his instructors, Tasso was an extremely talented Russian linguist who not only spoke the language well, but understood the culture. Having received a bachelor degree in Russian language prior to arriving at DLIFLC, Tasso often helped his classmates and instructors.
“His level of Russian was extraordinary,” said instructor Anna Sharifullina. “He was very articulate and I knew I had to be 100% prepared,” when coming to class to teach, adding that she was a new instructor. “He would ask very specific questions about how to use a word in a very specific way.”
Upon graduation, Tasso held a 4.0 GPA and passed the Defense Language Proficiency Test with a level 3 in reading and listening, and a 2+ in speaking, according to the Interagency Language Roundtable scale. Only 8% of DLIFLC students reach this level on their final exam in 2020.
Tasso not only helped tutor fellow students but he also assisted teachers in the class by tutoring one group, while they worked with struggling students. “Sometimes I would ask him to explain some grammatical concept, and he would do it with a smile. He knew he was at the top, but he was very humble,” Sharifullina explained.
Army Lt. Col. Matthew Upperman speaks during a memorial service held for Spc. Ryan Tasso March 11 at the Presidio of Monterey. Tasso graduated from the Russian Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Program in December of 2020.
During the ceremony, Tasso’s instructors and classmates prepared a slide show illustrating his work that included an audio recording of his voice reading an essay he wrote about this family that was accompanied by photos of his life and travels.
“He had a great sense of humor, I sat next to him in class” said Spc. Maya Gabriel, who noted that his exceptional knowledge of Russian also enabled him to joke in that language.
The first part of the event organized at the Presidio was live streamed to Goodfellow AFB where Tasso’s family members, friends and classmates were in attendance. DLIFLC Commandant Col. Gary Hausman and Command Sgt. Maj. Ernesto Cruz traveled to Texas to attend the event.
When the Presidio part of the ceremony concluded, Goodfellow AFB staff picked up by streaming their portion of the event live on Facebook, enabling participants from the Institute to view and follow the speeches and tributes.
Tasso’s life was cut short as a result of a car accident while completing his language training at Goodfellow AFB.