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NEWS | June 16, 2017

An Army astronaut afraid of heights?

By Spc. Noel Williams 214th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Why on earth would someone who is scared of heights want to become an astronaut?

Of all the Warriors in the 2017 U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition, Specialist Kenny Ochoa distinguishes himself with his desire to be among the stars – literally. As Ochoa explained, his life long dream is to become an astronaut, and he is determined to make that dream a reality by any means necessary.

“I don’t want to be average, I want to do things that very few people have done,” said the would-be astronaut. Ochoa is an U.S. Army Reserve specialist with the 481st Heavy Boat Transportation Unit, in Los Angeles, California. But today, he is a Warrior and competitor in the 2017 U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

“I love what I do, on both sides,” Ochoa explained.

Born in Guatemala, Ochoa recognized early on he was not willing to settle for an average life. He wanted to be an astronaut and nothing was going to stop him. The young man immigrated with his father to America in 2003, and decided to gain his citizenship by joining the U.S. Army Reserve in 2013.

Currently majoring in physics at the University of California, Davis, Ochoa has his sights set on a job working for NASA.

Ochoa understands becoming an astronaut is a difficult task, but not impossible. Fortunately for the young specialist, every two years the Astronaut Candidate Program recruits Soldiers to join the ranks of astronauts working for NASA.

Unbeknownst to many, the Army also has its own dedicated occupation that trains Soldiers to become Army astronauts. The training is directed by NASA and requires Soldiers to perform space flight related duties. All of this has caught the attention of Ochoa

It goes without saying being an astronaut involves learning a variety of skills while working under an immense amount of mental stress. Knowing this, Ochoa has decided to put himself to the test by competing in the 2017 U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition. In preparation for the competition, Ochoa started exercising, eating healthy, and studying regularly.

“Joining the Army Reserve, you bring a skill set that an active duty Soldier might not get a opportunity to possess, such as previous education and work experience,” said Ochoa.

The 2017 U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition showcases a variety of America’s Warriors – each who bring a unique set skills that may not necessarily be found on the active duty side of the Army. Every event at U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition requires knowledge of how treat casualties; implement small unit tactics; engage the enemy using physical strength, and display a firm grasp of history – all of which demonstrates the Warriors’ capability, combat-readiness, and lethality.

Being part of the 2017 U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition is a challenge, but one that also opens doors, Ochoa said. “I’m here to give my best.”

“I wasn’t in last year’s competition, I didn’t make it this far,” Ochoa explained. “I want to win, I put in a lot of time in, both mentally and emotionally.”