FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii – Pfc. Fadne Destilus, an information technology specialist with 8th Theater Sustainment Command waited eight years to join the Army; now he’s all in.
Destilus was born and raised in Haiti and lived there until his family moved to Florida in 2011. As the oldest of seven, Destilus felt an intrinsic responsibility to be a role model to his siblings. He viewed the Army as means to fulfill that duty, but was unwilling to sign a contract without his mom’s approval.
“For my family, I’d say for most Haitian people, they don’t understand the Army,” said Destilus. “In 2014, I was ready to leave for basic training, but I backed out. My mom didn’t want me to go. It’s a decision I regret till now."
Destilus acquiesced to his mom’s request and found employment with a hospitality company, eventually working his way up to a supervisor position. As the years passed laboring in the Florida heat, the appeal of serving in the Army became even more apparent.
“Finally in 2022, I decided to follow my path. That was always what I wanted to do, join the Army and get a job in IT. I feel like I was falling behind of my goals and I decided to finally do it in 2022.”
After completing basic training and advanced initial entry training, Destilus received orders to the 8th Theater Sustainment Command on Fort Shafter, Hawaii. He quickly demonstrated a reliable work ethic and was selected to join the forward support team for Talisman Sabre 2023, a bilateral exercise between the Australian Defence Force and the U.S. Army with multinational participation.
When Destilus arrived down under for Talisman Sabre, he was aware Australia was hosting the Women’s World Cup, but the idea of attending a match wasn’t on his radar.
Soldiers were spread across the continent, meaning Destilus could’ve been based at a half-dozen locations. Fortunately for Destilus, the 8th TSC headquarters was operating out of Brisbane, the same city where Haiti was playing in the opening stage of the World Cup.
Maj. Carlos Dorrejo, deputy director for G6, 8TSC, was also in Brisbane for Talisman Sabre, and knew Destilus was of Haitian decent.
“I asked Pfc. Destilus if he knew about, and if he was planning on going to the Haiti Women World Cup match being played just a short drive from where we were staying on Gallipoli Barracks,” said Dorrejo. “I told him that he should definitely go as it would be an amazing opportunity to watch the Haiti national soccer team play in its first ever World Cup match.”
Destilus recognized attending the match was an opportunity of a lifetime, but also acknowledged that he was in Australia supporting a major exercise.
“When Pfc. Destilus asked if he could go to the World Cup match to watch Haiti play, I felt it was important to let him go.” said Lt. Col. Clarence Langley, G6 director, 8TSC. “How many times in your life do get a chance to attend a World Cup match? Letting him go was the right thing to do.”
After receiving the approval from his chain of command, Destilus rallied a few of his battle buddies and purchased tickets for the match. Despite Haiti falling to England one-to-nil, it still contained the formula for a core memory.
“Soccer is huge in Haiti. I was so emotional and so proud that I was there,” said Destilus. “I can’t thank my leadership enough for letting me go. I know we are on a mission, and it’s hard for them to let me go, but they did.”
The workload for signal Soldiers that build information networks during exercises often find the start and end of exercises the busiest. Once the network is established, operations often shift to troubleshooting individual cases, which usually requires less personnel on a day-to-day basis.
Since Destilus returned from Australia he continues to impress his leadership with his commitment to learning coupled with his maturity. Despite the rank on his chest, he’s been placed in a new position where he works independently, improving IT workflow for the headquarters at large.
He also enrolled in college with an aim toward earning his bachelor’s degree in cyber security, taking full advantage of the Army’s tuition assistance program to pay for school. Currently, everything is on the table for Destilus. He's exploring options in cyber related fields and officer programs.
As far as the way his mom feels about him joining the Army, it’s safe to say her feelings of uncertainty have been supplanted by pride.
“I feel so proud of the direction he’s taken in his life,” said Ismael Destilus, Destilus’s mom (translated to English from Creole). “I never wanted him to join the military as he always wanted. Looking back, I wish I never stopped him from following his dream. I feel so proud when I say my son serves in the U.S. military.”