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From immigrant to Soldier and then to citizen — in that order

By Maj. Michelle Lunato | 98th Training Division — Initial Entry Training | Oct. 11, 2019

FORT BENNING, Ga. —

Standing before the formation, she looked down at her daughter pinning the new rank of major on her uniform. Then, she glanced over at her mother, who was beaming with pride.

In fact, U.S. Army Reserve Maj. Adriana Scott’s mother was so proud of her that she walked over to the front of the formation and gave her newly promoted daughter a big hug.

After holding back tears, Scott, a force protection officer with the 98th Training Division (Initial Entry Training), explained that this was the first promotion her family had been able to witness over the years due to deployments and training missions.

Scott looked out to the Soldiers in formation and over to Brig. Gen. Tony Wright, the commanding general of the 98th Training Division (IET), who presided over the ceremony, and apologized for getting emotional, but she explained that the October promotion ceremony, with her family watching, just reminded her of why she chose to join the Army.

“I’ve always felt this sense of serving and helping people,” said Scott who migrated from Mexico with her parents when she was three years old. “My parents came here in the hopes of achieving 'The American Dream' in 'The Land of Opportunities,' ” said Scott, an Arvin, California, native.

For years, she worked alongside her mother and father in the fields, learning the value of teamwork and hard work. “It gave me a sense of doing something bigger than myself, and bigger than my community,” said Scott.

So during the September 11 attacks, Scott remembers how she felt a strong urge to take action. “I remember the feeling of helplessness and concern watching the news while sitting in my high school classroom. I thought to myself, all those innocent people who were just going about their daily lives were killed for the ignorance and hate of those 19 hijackers. I was angry and wanted to help.” So she enlisted into the Army at 17 years old. "What better way than to be prepared to protect and defend our freedoms than by serving in the military.”

Enlisting was a way to contribute and make an impact, but it also a way for the young immigrant girl to show her thanks. “I just felt a sense of serving the Country that had given so much to my family already.”

Scott was not wearing boots long before she found herself on her first deployment in Iraq. As a specialist in a transportation company, Scott saw a lot of the countryside as they delivered supplies to the troops in outlying bases. "We lived out of bags, ate MREs [meals-ready-to-eat], and slept in, or around or on, our trucks," reflected Scott.

Between the limited water and the always-on-the-go status, the young Soldier learned to be creative and resourceful. “Baby wipes are everyone’s best friend in the Army,” laughed Scott.

Her first deployment to Iraq was filled with a number of other intense lessons. While in Fallujah, Iraq, Scott had the mission of assisting with and securing the first Iraqi elections. She watched the Iraqi people line up to cast their votes, to make a difference in their country. And some of those in line were women who had never been allowed to have a voice before. That’s an image that Scott will always carry with her. “Seeing other females being able to vote for the first time in Iraq…that was just a great thing to see as a young, 18-year-old female from a small town.”

Even through her youthful eyes, Scott could see the power of all that she was witnessing—the first Iraqi election, and her and her fellow U.S. Soldiers were helping it happen. “We were such a crucial part of history moving forward. That gave me a sense of pride.”

That’s right. As an immigrant, Scott was able to serve the United States as a Soldier, but until she became an official citizen, she did not have the right to vote. The irony of watching the election in another country did not escape her. “To go into a combat zone and not know if you are going to come back and be able to exercise your own right to vote or become a citizen was kind of hard,” said Scott. So the young Soldier just had to hold fast and focus on the mission. “I could not wait to come back and be granted citizenship.”

Many could argue the reasons for going into Iraq or what was accomplished, but Scott knows what she saw on the ground there. She saw people voting for change, people standing up to be heard, people making history. Seeing all that made her time there valid. “I can say that was a big accomplishment for the United States.”

Of course, not all Scott’s experiences on her two deployments to Iraq were something to remember fondly. While deployed, a Soldier and friend in her unit, Sgt. Tina Time, was killed in a vehicle accident.

Traumatic experiences and deep loss at such a young age make you grow up sooner, but you have to keep moving, said Scott. “If anything, you get really close to the people in your organization [after going through all that].”

That level of loss made her look around at the big picture. She said she needed to understand and make sure her friend did not die in vain. More and more each day, she started to understand, and see more of the impact there on the ground in Iraq.

“Deployment definitely helped me mature fast enough, but it also brought into perspective that what I signed up to do is a big part of making change in our history, and that’s fighting for equality, fighting for rights, not only for our Country, but other countries as well.”

When the combat veteran redeployed back to the United States, she kept that perspective in her heart. And when she finally received her U.S. citizenship, she felt an immense sense of pride and accomplishment for her family. “It was one of the biggest moments in my family’s achievements. It wasn’t my achievement, it was my family’s.”

She was not the only one who could see the factors of the situation though. The judge giving the oath of citizenship did as well. Scott reflected on the scene with thoughtfulness: My parents were there; I was in my dress uniform, the only female in uniform; and the judge called my name, knowing I had just returned from deployment. “He thanked my family, realizing that even people who came from other countries and who are not citizens, but are permanent residents, are still serving the Country every day.” That meant a great deal to the family originally from Mexico, the family who allowed their daughter fight for a Country that had given them an opportunity.

Nearly 18 years later, and now a major, Scott says she would not change most of her Army experiences, including some of her time overseas. “I can honestly say that I cherish the time I did in Iraq.”

Whether it was discussing life with her Iraqi interpreters, dropping of supplies to a local school or meeting with officials on improving their infrastructure, Scott’s military experiences gave her a rare opportunity to see the world, experience a different culture, and learn valuable life lessons. Overall, she said her time in uniform has been rewarding. “It has been amazing. It’s made me realize how blessed we are. And it’s re-validated why I wanted to be in the Army in the first place, and why my parents brought me here as a young child.”

Like any career, there will be hard times, reminded Scott. But that’s just part of life, and the key for Scott has been to always learn something, gain something—even from hardship. “My time in the Army disciplined me and matured me much quicker, but it helped me become a better person, a better leader, a better mentor, and it’s the biggest, most fulfilling career I have ever had,” said Scott who served in both the U.S. Army and U.S. Army Reserve, as well as in the civilian workforce over the years.

Now that she is a field grade officer, Scott will move on to the next opportunity. She will leave the 98th Training Division headquarters at Fort Benning, Georgia, to become a battalion executive officer for the 96th Military Police Battalion at Camp Pendleton, California.

And just like all the years in the past, she will take on this new role with pride and be ready to serve her country, her home. “There is no better feeling than putting on your uniform and serving with pride.”