8TSC Soldier starts anew after joining Army

By Sgt. Nickson SchenkMarch 1, 2024

8TSC Soldier starts anew after joining Army
U.S. Army Cpl. Djalima Balima, with Bravo Company, 125th Finance Battalion, poses for a photo at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, February 28, 2024. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Nickson Schenk) (Photo Credit: Sgt. Nickson Schenk) VIEW ORIGINAL

Fort Shafter, Hawaii - Cpl. Djamila Balima was flying high, operating a small business exporting goods between the U.S. and Africa when Covid happened in the spring of 2020, and like so many, her life was turned upside down.

Balima, a financial management technician assigned to the 125th Finance Battalion, 8th Military Police Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, was born and raised in Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in western Africa, and lived a very different life than the one she lives now.

8TSC Soldier starts anew after joining Army
Djamila Balima poses with her family shortly after receiving her bachelor’s degree at Stony Brook University, New York, December of 2013. (Courtesy) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

Balima’s father was a professional diplomat, and in 2007, when Balima was 20 years old, she accompanied her family when they moved to the U.S. after her father received a position at the Embassy of Burkina Faso, Washington, D.C.

“I wanted to be more independent,” said Balima. “I wanted to move to New York and live with my older brother.”

She attended Stony Brook University and earned a bachelor’s degree in finance. However, it didn’t come without its challenges. Balima had to learn English during her time at college while also shouldering the burden of tuition.

“I had to pay for my college, and during that time, I was working two jobs so I could afford it,” Balima said.

Despite the setbacks, Balima graduated in 2013 and worked as a traffic data collector with one of her best friends. It was around this time when she launched her business, leveraging the connections she made at work and maintained in Burkina Faso. Armel Sanhouidi, a long-time friend of Balima, noticed her success.

“What is most impressive about Balima is how resilient and ambitious she is. She was determined to keep her business open and never showed signs of discouragement,” said Sanhouidi.

For a while, it seemed like the sky was the limit for Balima’s business – life was good.

“When Covid happened, I was let go from my job,” said Balima. “Then, my business was losing money, so I had to reinvest. I had to start all over.”

After a few months, Balima followed a job referral, picked up her life, and moved to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In time, things started to return to normal, but there was a void that kept her feeling she needed to do more.

As Balima weighed her options with her friends, she prayed for a sign to guide her. After months of looking at the same Army recruiting station outside her house, she started to see it differently.

“I had some friends who told me I should join; it was like the sign was right in front of me the whole time,” said Balima. “Through prayer and recommendations, I decided to join.”

Balima enlisted as a financial management technician in May of 2021. Basic training was as expected. The physical demands were more than what she was used to, and dealing with the different personalities from across her company was by far her most challenging aspect as someone who had been living on their own.

“Basic training was hard physically, it was tough,” said Balima.

Upon graduating from basic training and her advanced individual training, Balima received orders to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

8TSC Soldier starts anew after joining Army
U.S. Soldiers, from Bravo Company, 125th Finance Battalion, pose for a photo after the Basic Leaders Course graduation at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, November 2023. (Courtesy) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

In June 2022, Balima reported to her assignment and made a positive impression with her first sergeant, 1st Sgt. Lorena Sermeno. It was obvious to Sermeno that she was not an average Soldier. Sermeno noted that Balima was more reserved and would keep to herself, but as time went on, Balima began to open up. As Balima became more comfortable, Sermano could see she was performing far beyond what was typical of a Soldier in her rank.

8TSC Soldier starts anew after joining Army
U.S. Army Spc. Djalima Balima (middle), with Bravo Company, 125th Finance Battalion, receives a Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal from Command Sgt. Maj. Craig Rodland (left) and Lt. Col. Leviticus Pope (right) at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, February 2023.

(Courtesy) (Photo Credit: Courtesy)
“Cpl. Balima was always a humble and resilient Soldier,” said Sermano. “She operates way above what is expected of a Soldier in her rank. I admire her for what she’s done and gone through.”

Balima found her confidence; she found herself and started anew when she joined the Army. She found her new path in the Army and doesn’t plan to leave anytime soon.

“I can say that the Army, to me, has been a good experience,” said Balima. “I was broken when I joined. I lost confidence and was able to get back on my feet. Getting back all these skills and confidence that I used to have, I appreciate it.”