FORWARD OPERATING BASE PROSPERITY, Iraq (Army News Service, Aug. 13, 2007) - Growing up in the Mission District of San Francisco, Calif., Pfc. Marco Sanchez always dreamed of a music career.

He imagined headlining shows and his face on CDs, posters and television. Wherever his life took him - working as a waiter, selling time-shares and now as a Soldier serving in Iraq - music remained a priority.

Over the past six months, he has seen his dream materialize into reality with the signing of a multi-album deal with San Francisco-based Bay Grinderz Records and the release of his first album, "Hazardous Duty Pay."

As a fueler assigned to Co. A, 15th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd "Black Jack" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Pfc. Sanchez spends most days preparing his equipment and truck for nightly convoys to pick up fuel. But music is always on his mind, he said.

The private began his entertainment career at age 9 as a break dancer for neighborhood rappers.

"One day they saw me practicing in my garage, and they came and talked to my mom and were like, 'Hey can we get Marco to come break dance at our shows,'" he said.

Pfc. Sanchez said his mom, who is a fan of rap music, accompanied him to the shows to keep an eye on him. It was after one of these shows that he took his first shot at rapping.

He spent his teenage years bouncing around northern California's underground rap scene performing what he describes as "semi-gangster" or "thug rap." Music that reflects the world he was raised in, he said.

"Where I grew up, everyday life was not that pretty," he said. "You got gang violence all around the area, and I kind of inherited that lifestyle, and I got into a lot of trouble as a kid."

Needing a change in his life, Pfc. Sanchez joined the Army in November of 2005. After training, he was assigned to a unit at Fort Hood, Texas, where he spent his days as a Soldier and his nights as a rapper.

One night while surfing the Web, Pfc. Sanchez found a high school friend on MySpace.

"This dude, it turns out, started a record label called Bay Grinderz Records, and he's got distribution with City Hall, Koch and is working on one with Atlantic," he said.

Pfc. Sanchez sent Bay Grinderz Records a demo and then deployed to Iraq. After arriving in Iraq, he remained in contact with the friend, and when he went to San Francisco on leave, Bay Grinderz presented him a contract.

The $250,000 recording contract is for the recording and release of three albums over the next five years. As part of the contract, Bay Grinderz also released "Hazardous Duty Pay" in June.

Pfc. Sanchez said 8,500 copies of the CD have been sold so far in California, and in two months it will get international distribution.

"I'll be in every state," he said. "I'll be in about 30 different countries."

He said the Army has helped him mature, and he has found inspiration for his music from his duties and fellow Soldiers.

"The inspiration comes from a lot of places," Pfc. Sanchez said. "Hearing the guys I work with talk and me getting on a level with them, that's how I get the inspiration."

Although "Hazardous Duty Pay" has only been available since June, Pfc. Sanchez said he is focused on his next album.

"I'm already nine songs into it," he said. "They've got a budget for me for the next album, which is almost 100 grand."

Pfc. Sanchez is scheduled to return to the U.S. in January, and he will still have a year left on his enlistment.

"I will gladly serve my time because the Army has done a lot of good for me," he said. "I've gone from being in the streets to helping rebuild a third-world country. How many rappers can really say they've done that'"

(Sgt. Robert Yde is with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs.)