FORT JACKSON, S.C. — An Army pilot program turned one Soldier’s dream into a reality.
In June of 2022, Patricia Rose Limbaga was feeling defeated and heartbroken after only receiving an 18 on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test, 13 points lower than required to enlist in the Army.
That afternoon, she asked God to give her a sign if she was meant to join the Army or do something else with her life. Shortly after praying, she received that sign when she delivered food to the home of a Soldier.
She wasn’t delivering food to just any Soldier, though. She arrived at the home of Brig. Gen. Richard Allen Harrison, deputy chief of staff for plans, operations and training for the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.
“That afternoon, he was a clear sign … the sign,” Limbaga. “It was a star sign.”
“Seeing me that day, she believed that was God’s sign to her to keep fighting,” said Harrison, who traveled from TRADOC headquarters in Virginia to witness Limbaga’s graduation. “And ironically, the Secretary of the Army had just approved the Future Soldier Preparatory Course here at Fort Jackson.”
Harrison shared the news with Limbaga that there was a way for her to go to Basic Combat Training early, improve her ASVAB score and join the Army. The ASVAB, a test required to enlist in any branch of service, is a standardized test that was originally introduced by the Department of Defense in 1968.
For Limbaga, a native of the Philippines and English language learner, this timed test was even more difficult due to her lack of experience with the English language.
“I had to translate the test in my head and then translate the answers back to English,” she said. “So, it took me much longer to complete the questions.”
The two main areas Limbaga struggled with on the entrance exam were vocabulary and paragraph comprehension.
Harrison and Limbaga took a selfie and she sent it to her recruiter, who was shocked that she met a general officer. Even though Limbaga wasn’t even sure what a general was, she knew he was a Soldier that could help.
“She just knew that she saw a Soldier and that’s what she really wanted — to be a Soldier,” Harrison said.
Limbaga had a road full of trials, trouble, but eventually triumph ahead. Due to various other reasons, such as being 25 pounds overweight, Limbaga went to the nearest military entrance processing station seven times. “And on the eighth time, that was when I swore in,” she said.
She continued to say that Harrison was with her through the entire process and he even swore her into the Army.
“He guided me not as a Soldier, but like his own daughter,” Limbaga said of Harrison’s devotion and support throughout her enlistment process. “He lifted me up and gave me hope.”
Limbaga arrived at Fort Jackson three weeks prior to her battle buddies in 1st Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment so she could participate in the Future Soldier Preparatory Course. She worked hard, increased her score, renegotiated her contract and fulfilled her dream of becoming an American Soldier.
“I’m so proud of her,” said Dexter Perilla, Limbaga’s father and Army veteran.
Paulo Perilla, Limbaga’s brother echoed his father’s pride, “She failed many times, but she kept on giving her faith to herself to join the Army. She never gave up. I’m so proud of her.”
Limbaga now heads to to Fort Gregg-Adams, Virginia to train as a 92G, or culinary specialist.
For more information on careers in the Army, visit GoArmy.com.