ŻAGAN, Poland—Moving to a different country can be intimidating and difficult due to challenges and unfamiliarity, but if one joins an organization that values diversity, equity, and inclusion, such as the U.S. Army, one has room to adapt and develop.
Such is the case with Pvt. Ngan La, a human resources specialist with 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, who took the challenge head on by joining the U.S. Army five years after moving to the U.S. from Vietnam
At 21 years old, La and her mother decided to pack up and move from their home in Vietnam to the U.S., leaving behind their family. The decision was made to explore new options and find a new way of life.
“I feel like there is more opportunity for us,” La said. “An opportunity for us to go to school and have more freedom.”
La and her mother moved to the U.S. in 2015 and lived in Georgia. La began working in a beauty and nail salon while also pursuing an online degree part-time.
“I want to continue to go to school for business because I love the idea of business,” La said.
After some time, La began exploring her options and decided she would join the U.S. Army. She saw it as an opportunity to further her career while also providing free education. Not only did she do it for the benefits but also to give back to the country that gave her a new life.
“I want to serve the country,” La said with a smile. “I appreciate the United States, and I love the Army uniform.”
Along with this opportunity, she knew there would be challenges. The U.S. Army would test La’s physical and mental endurance. Army Basic Combat Training tests an individual's abilities in self-discipline, sacrifice, loyalty, obedience and attention to detail.
“I think physical training was the biggest challenge for me,” La said. “I had never done PT before I joined the Army.”
La said she worked hard and gave 100 percent effort every time they did physical training. Her friends that she had made were also there to give her the little extra motivation she needed.
Another big challenge for La was the language barrier. She knew the past years of learning English would be put to the test. The drill sergeants speak with an intense tone and volume that is sometimes difficult for native English speakers to understand. La would overcome the challenge with some help from her peers at BCT.
“I mean, it was kind of hard a little bit, but the females in my platoon helped me a lot,” La said. “When I didn’t understand something, they would explain it to me.”
Shortly after completing BCT and Advanced Individual Training, La would find herself stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, home of the 1st Infantry Division, as a '42A' - human resources specialist.
Two months later, she received orders to deploy to Poland in support of Atlantic Resolve. Since April 2014, U.S. Army Europe and Africa have led the Department of Defense’s Atlantic Resolve land efforts by rotating units based in the U.S. to Europe.
“I like traveling,” La said. “I’m excited to learn something new about a different country, and I want to challenge and improve myself.”
La is excited to gain experience in her career field while in Poland. She is fresh out of AIT and ready to expand her skillset.
Expanding this skill set comes with obstacles that she overcomes on a daily basis. A big part of her job is communicating with soldiers. They sometimes don’t understand her English, but this doesn’t stop her from staying motivated and excelling at her job.
Staff Sgt. Jocelyn Alcide, a unit supply specialist with 1ABCT, 1ID, mentioned how well Pvt. La has integrated into the Army.
“She adapted very well,” Alcide said. “She’s extremely smart as a private; she's even doing an E-6 [staff sergeant] job in the human resources shop.”
“I like my job because I can support and assist different Soldiers,” La said.
La now lives a different life than what she was used to living in Vietnam. She had a desire to change her life and create opportunities, proving that she won’t let obstacles stop her from her goals. Moving away from home can be a daunting obstacle, especially when you’re moving halfway across the world.
“It’s an opportunity to change your life,” La said. “If you have a bad life, you can change it for yourself. People are normally scared of change, but it can be the best for you.”