Story by Capt. Jeffrey Gruidl
316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait - Five noncommissioned Officers in the 316th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) have a combined time-in-service of almost 100 years and 12 deployments among them. Master Sgt. J. Carlos Ramirez, Sgts. 1st Class Nancy Rexach, Maria Vera-Garcia, Dominique Allbritten and Staff Sgt. Ginel Caban agreed to sit down for an interview to discuss their experiences in the Army and their connection being of Hispanic heritage. The 316th ESC is an Army reserve unit based out of Coraopolis, Pa., is currently deployed to Kuwait and is made up of soldiers from 27 states, Washington and Puerto Rico.
The first question asked to the group was, ‘Why did you join the Army’. All the Soldiers agreed that a sense of patriotism and to better themselves were primary reasons. Rexach, a resident of Willow Group, Pa., and Allbritten, from Westminster, Md., and a self identified military brat, come from military families and a sense of tradition that bound them to serve.
Allbritten recalled the first time she put on her uniform saying, “It’s a special thing. You feel different, prideful, like you are doing something. You stand out, you are an example.”
Ramirez, a native of Piscataway N.J., said he joined the Army because “I didn’t want to just hang out on the corner, I know people who that’s all they have done with their life.” Ramirez also was able to benefit from Army sponsored educational opportunities to improve his life, adding, “I graduated from Georgia Tech in 1998 with a degree in computer engineering and work for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.”
Over the years, the soldiers feel the Army has become more accepting of speaking Spanish during off-duty time. This has allowed several members of the group, along with other Spanish speaking soldiers here on Camp Arifjan, to hold weekly bible study classes. In addition Rexach, Vera-Garcia and Master Sgt. Francis Hernandez Del Toro have started weekly Spanish language classes. These classes originally started after a soldier approached Rexach to help him better communicate with his girlfriend and it has grown into weekly classes for any soldier wanting to learn.
Family was another topic that all soldiers felt was important to them and part of their culture. Creating to their camaraderie Rexach, Vera-Garcia, Allbritten and Caban all have military spouses. Rexach added, “My husband is in the military and so he understands and makes it less traumatic,” but all agree it’s never easy being away from your family. Caban, a resident of Coraopolis, Pa., saying, “In the Hispanic community family is very important and we are like a family, we understand each other.”
Even though they are separated from their family back in the U.S., Puerto Rico or even as far away Colombia, they found they still have family in Kuwait.
These are a group of Soldiers that honestly like each other and enjoy their work and mission. Vera-Garcia jokes that, “I found a mother in Sergeant Rexach and a grandfather in Sergeant Hernandez.”
These soldiers are bound by culture and patriotism, but also friendship.