Soldier enjoys challenge of service
Staff Sgt. Jennifer Kaplan is assigned to Headquarters, Transportation Corps at Fort Lee's Sustainment Center of Excellence. She was recently selected for drill sergeant school. (Photo Credit: Terrance Bell) VIEW ORIGINAL

Name: Staff Sgt. Jennifer Kaplan

Age: 27

Hometown: Bayamon, Puerto Rico

Family: married to another Soldier

Unit: 508th Transportation Training Detachment

Place of duty: Headquarters, Transportation Corps

Time in service: six years

Military Occupational Specialty: 88M – motor transport operator. According to www.goarmy.com, motor transport operators play an important part on the Army’s transportation logistics team. They supervise and operate wheeled vehicles over all types of terrain to safely transport cargo, troops, and provide advanced mobility on all missions. They also manage loading and unloading among other responsibilities.

Background: Kaplan earned a degree in nursing before joining the Puerto Rico National Guard as a 92W Water Treatment Specialist and becoming the first in her family to join the military. She changed her military occupational specialty to motor transport operator after deciding to join the active Army.

Motivation for joining: “About six months before finishing up my bachelor’s degree, I was thinking ‘What’s next?’ It just happened that while I was doing one of my nursing assignments, I saw a commercial about the Army. It was a nurse doing her job in a hospital … then the commercial transitions from her doing the same thing in the Army Service Uniform. I kept looking and started to think, ‘That could be me.’ Eventually… I came to the conclusion I wanted to be challenged and part of something with a larger purpose. That was the Army.”

Reason for choosing your initial MOS: “I wanted to do something new, and I love learning. That’s the reason I’ve stayed in the Army. It provides opportunities for continuous learning.”

The excitement in serving: “I’m proud of myself. I was raised in Puerto Rico, and I didn’t know any English. Coming over here to the states and joining the Army and being part or an organization in which I was going to have responsibilities, I knew it would be a challenge. It drives me every day.”

A tidbit about your duties as a driver: “It’s not an easy job because of the details demanding your attention. It’s one of the jobs in which you must read the room, know what to do and take initiative. It’s a great learning experience. You get to work with those in different ranks and positions … so it gives me learning opportunities I wouldn’t normally get.”

Best thing about the Army: “You get to meet new people and you get to learn whatever you want whenever you want.”

You were recently selected for drill sergeant. What are your thoughts? “Being a drill sergeant means I’m the first point of reference for new Soldiers. Being selected is very humbling. I feel a lot of pride because of all the people they could’ve chosen, I was one of them.”

Most valuable lesson learned: “Leadership and how to be an effective one. Regardless of any job you’re in, you’re likely to interact with people. Usually, the goals are to become better so you can positively affect yourself and others. You can’t achieve those if you don’t work as a team. Teams require leadership. Being empathetic is important to leadership. That’s what I’ve learned here. I love being an empathetic leader.”

Your advice to people making career decisions: “No pun intended but ‘be all you can be.’ Never let anyone tell you something is too difficult, or you have to jump through hoops to do this or that. No, if you imagine yourself being a lawyer, go ahead and do everything you have to do to be a lawyer … just remember that whatever you want, you’re not going to get it tomorrow. You need to work for it. You have to be uncomfortable to become comfortable; you have to go through things you don’t want to in order to be where you want to be. Imagine a mountain, and you want to get to the top. You can’t, however, get to the top if you don’t start climbing. You’ll be challenged because you don’t know what you’re going to encounter on your way up, but that’s the fun part. That’s how you’re going to grow, and that’s how you’re going to get there.”

-- compiled by T. Anthony Bell