For Spc. Robert A. Murray, becoming a Soldier in the U.S. Army was an opportunity to achieve American citizenship and his dream for a better future.
The native of Jamaica serves as a unit supply sergeant with Company A, 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment, and recently earned his citizenship while serving at Fort Rucker.
“It has been a lifelong dream of mine to become an American,” Murray said. “I remember watching shows as a child in Jamaica on Disney Channel and being so inspired by the lifestyle of Americans. I always wanted it for myself and now I have the opportunity to make the best of it.”
Growing up, he longed for a better life with more opportunities, and through family connections was able to come to the United States as a teenager on a Green Card.
“It meant the world to me. As a child that’s all I ever wanted,” he said.
“Life is also very hard growing up in Jamaica. There aren’t as many opportunities there compared to the United States to create a successful future. I honestly cannot imagine what my future would look like if I was still there,” he said.
Moving to the U.S. was more challenging than he expected. He soon realized the culture shock and personal struggles immigrants face. At school, he felt self-conscious about his thick Jamaican accent.
“In Jamaica what’s cool is different from what’s cool in America as a kid growing up. We speak differently. We dress differently. We don’t act the same. Moving to America I didn’t blend in. It was kinda hard for me to make friends. Now I’ve become more Americanized, and I don’t have those struggles anymore,” he said.
As he finished high school in Florida, he focused on his grades and working a part-time job. When a recruiter spoke at his school, Murray was drawn to the idea of being able to provide for himself immediately after high school, and he knew joining the military would expedite his citizenship. He had always heard good things about the Army, and believed it would be a solid foundation for his life, so he decided to enlist.
During basic training, the cold weather at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, wasn’t the only challenge for Murray. Being in a delayed entry program, he had just returned home to Jamaica for a period of months and gained weight. Because of the struggles with physical training he was a holdover, and went through basic a second time.
Murray’s perseverance during basic training earned him the respect of his instructors and peers at Advanced Individual Training at Fort Lee, Virginia. He was appointed the class leader and participated in the student leadership program.
After graduating from AIT, Murray’s first duty assignment was serving as a supply specialist with the 541st Quartermaster Company, a field feeding company, at Camp Carroll in South Korea, where he and a fellow Soldier had to build their shop from the ground up.
“We were thrown in the pool and had to learn how to swim,” Murray said.
But he rose to the challenge and enjoyed serving in Korea.
“I loved it there. Being exposed to a different culture, getting to travel on the weekends to explore Korea, and seeing different sights,” he said.
His move to Fort Rucker was delayed for several months due to travel restrictions during the global COVID-19 pandemic. In October of 2020 he finally arrived at Fort Rucker, and six months later became a proud U.S. citizen.
Master Sgt. Natalie Showers, who serves as Company B, 1-145th Aviation's first sergeant and one of Murray’s recent supervisors, said Murray “doesn’t quit,” goes above and beyond, and is never afraid to ask questions if he needs help.
“His motivation makes me motivated,” Showers said. “He’s always looking to better himself. It helps keep the morale up and motivates everybody to achieve more. If he stays in the Army he’s going to continue to do great things.”
With family members living in Jamaica, Canada and the U.S., Murray said he relies on technology to keep them connected and include them in his success. As he makes plans for the future, he hopes to find a way to see them in person more.
Now that he’s a U.S. citizen, Murray hopes to get accepted at the U.S. Military Academy and continue to take advantage of the multitude of programs the Army offers for career development.
“I’m very grateful to be a Soldier. The Army is an amazing organization that creates a lot of opportunities for its Soldiers. You just have to research and figure out what’s best for you and the direction that it can take you in life. All the goals that I want to achieve in life, they all involve the Army putting me in that position to do so,” he said.
In his youth he was inspired by the first black American president and his public speaking, and he too wants to attend Harvard and study law.
“I want to be the best I can be in life,” Murray said. “This is only the start for me.”