BLACKROCK TRAINING CAMP, Fiji — Beach destinations aren’t typically the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Army destinations, but for Staff Sgt. Daudi Ola, finding tropical paradises is in his roots.
Ola — an infantryman assigned to Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, stationed at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and supporting Exercise Cartwheel in Fiji — was born and raised in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
For as long Ola can remember he thought about serving, and although he initially had his eye on the Navy, he sided with the branch that he believed had the most opportunity.
“I think I wanted to be a SEAL at first; it was either a movie or a video game that I saw and I thought it was cool,” he said. “On the island, you see stuff from the outside world on the news, but I just wanted to get out into the world and see stuff for myself, and then just live a life like nobody else wants.”
Army service, particularly the infantry, runs in his family, though he didn’t know his grandfather had served at first.
“I had already signed the papers, and I found out afterwards that he was infantry,” said Ola.
Phrases like, “choose the road less traveled,” and “there is no royal road to learning,” ring clear for people who choose an infantry life. For Ola, he chose the infantry for one simple reason.
“Because it’s hard.”
Striving to separate oneself from the pack can be challenging, but it’s that type of competition that Ola lives for, he wants to win and be the best at everything he does.
“Sometimes in the pool you’re in, you’re number one, and then you go somewhere else and there’s a new pool of people, and you’re not even top three,” he said. “It pushes you to get there again.”
Ola was in Fiji supporting Exercise Cartwheel, the final combined exercise in the Operation Pathways series for the Bronco Brigade.
“I didn’t know the Army trains in other countries until I had been in for a few years,” said Ola. “17-year-old me wouldn’t have a clue that I would being training in Fiji nine years later.”
During Exercise Cartwheel, Ola served as rappel master, ensuring the rappel site was safe for over a hundred Soldiers, and that rappelers were set and dressed to go down the cliff side. He instructed both U.S. and partner nation Soldiers from Fiji, Australia, New Zealand and the U.K. on best practices.
“We all cross-trained and showed each other different ways to complete similar tasks,” said Ola. “If you’re open minded, it helps you add onto your previous training. Our way isn’t the only way.”
Ola’s career started at Fort Riley with the 1st Infantry Division, followed by Fort Campbell with 101st Airborne Division, then a stop at Fort Benning as a Drill Sergeant with 198th Infantry Brigade, before arriving to the Bronco Brigade at Schofield Barracks.
Throughout his career, he’s dealt with his fair share of jobs he’s enjoyed and others that he didn’t, but what always separated him was his drive to succeed no matter what.
His ethos, coupled with his own personal mantra, “Always learning, always getting better, always getting stronger,” spurred him through his next major hurdle.
“When I got to Fort Campbell and immediately became a squad leader; I didn’t know how to be a squad leader,” he said. “I was straight out of the arms room; I hadn’t even been a team leader. I was just a gunner, the armorer and then straight into being a squad leader. So I had to dive back into the books and figure out the ins and outs of being a squad leader.”
Fortunately for Ola, his father instilled a love of reading in him at young age, and the Infantry Platoon and Squad, along with the Ranger Handbook became his daily reading material.
“All the squad leaders at Campbell had more experience than me,” He said. “They had been E-6s for a while and I was still an E-5, and I just shadowed them. I watched them and listened to how they did a few things. I picked up pieces from them, added them into what I was doing and came up with my own way.”
Before long, his efforts led to his appointment as a weapons squad leader, known affectionately as a “weasel,” and his platoon gained a reputation of excellence marked by collaboration and admiration.
“All the squad leaders worked together to make the platoon better, and we became the best in the company,” he said. “I could tell because all the Soldiers and NCOs started asking to come to my platoon.”
Most infantry Soldiers hope to have “weasel” on their resume by the end of their career, but Ola plans on making sure it’s not the final entry on his.
“I just want to shoot high and see if I land up there,” he said. “I don’t want to just settle.”
Ola aims to complete Ranger School, then, “come back, do my time on the line, then take the walk and go to selection.”
There is no doubt that his infantry background will serve him extremely well in navigating his way through the special forces selection process, but ultimately, Ola sees his career taking another turn.
“Hopefully I can deep dive into a whole different craft,” he said. “I hope when I go I can get [MOS 18D, Special Forces Medical Sergeant], so I can be a medic. I just want to learn because I’ve always been interested in [the Combat Lifesaver course] and anything medical.”
With nine years of service, Ola has just scratched the surface on the things he wants to do. But one thing is for sure, he’s hungry for more and has a knack for finding beaches.
“You have your ups and downs in the Army, but I wouldn’t change a thing.”
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