NEWS | Aug. 21, 2020

Profiles in Space: From Kenya to U.S. Army Space

By Staff Sgt. Aaron Rognstad U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command

The Soldiers of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command are, at times, a direct reflection of the country they serve. They come from different backgrounds, different parts of the globe, and represent a multitude of race and culture.

This series of articles will periodically focus on a different Soldier within the command in a question and answer format to get to know the Soldier.

For this first article, I introduce Spc. Gerald Ngugi (the N is silent), a light-wheel vehicle mechanic in the Army Reserve of the 2nd Space Battalion, 1st Space Brigade, Colorado Springs. Ngugi, a 51-year-old truck driver who lives in Colorado Springs, recently sat down with me on one of the many M-16 ranges at Fort Carson and answered my questions whilst eating an MRE before he qualified with his weapon.

Q: Where in Kenya are you from?

A: Kiambu. It’s a suburb of the capital, Nairobi. I worked my grandfather’s farm for years there. It was manual labor dealing with livestock and farming. Cows, chickens, planting and harvesting collard greens, potatoes and bananas. It was hard work.

Q: How long have you been in the U.S.?

A: 13 years. I moved here when I was 38.

Q: What brought you here?

A: I had a brother who passed away in Boston. I came to help with funeral arrangements to ship him back home and decided to stay after that.

Q: Why did you join the Army?

A: I was working at a 7-11 in Boston and all these military guys would come in and talk to me about it, so I decided to join – at age 40. The cutoff was 42 then.

Q: Basic at age 40? What was that like?

A: Not that much different. I was working hard to meet the standards in all training events. I had to put in more effort than the much younger Soldiers I was with to succeed.

Q: Where was your first duty assignment?

A: Fort Lewis, Washington, as a light-wheel vehicle mechanic – High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, Light Medium Tactical Vehicle, etc.

Q: What made you choose to be a mechanic?

A: I originally wanted to be a mechanic because transportation is one of the biggest factors that leads to mission accomplishment. I felt like I could make the most contribution as a mechanic in the Army.

Q: How long have you served?

A: 10 years.

Q: What brought you to the 2nd Space Battalion?

A: I was assigned to the unit when I left active duty and wanted to continue as a reservist.

Q: Any deployments? What did you do? How was it?

A: I did one deployment at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, from February to November 2015 as a wrecker and mechanic. I did a lot of recovery ops – blown out tires, towing. I liked the deployment.

Q: How has the Army been? Do you like serving?

A: The Army has given me many opportunities to go new places, like here in Colorado, where I decided to settle. I have been going to school and trying to be physically fit because of the Army. The Army gives me a higher standard of living. I also feel a sense of pride and honor while serving in the Army.

Q: Can you elaborate on that higher standard of living part?

A: I’ve gotten the opportunity to go to schools; lots of opportunities in life because of various Army training.

Q: What is it like to serve in a space battalion?

A: I like serving in a space battalion compared to my old units because the space title makes it more interesting. It’s like a cell phone, where you can talk to someone who is halfway around the world right? What is allowing you to make that call? Satellites in space. It’s a complexity of high order.

Q: What are your goals in life? Is there a specific career you are trying to get into?

A: My goal in life is to continue to be more educated. I am now in trucking, which has opportunities in transport, maintenance, or recycling, and I am looking to get a permanent position in one of those fields.

Ngugi is married, and they have three children. He enjoys yard work, gardening, travelling, jogging, hiking and team sports.

Author's note: If you know someone within your unit who you would like to profile, email: aaron.j.rognstad.mil@mail.mil