Thursday, May 7, 2015 –
Editor’s note: This story was initially written in 2012, but only released then in an internal publication. The soldier featured in the story is currently assigned to the 85th Support Command.
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Second Lieutenant Jiaru Bryar traveled on a journey across 10,000 miles, experiencing different cultures; expanding on her education; becoming a US citizen; achieving her bachelors and masters degree; obtaining a career in the federal government; and one day realized that she had just become a soldier in the U.S. Army.
Bryar’s story begins when she was eight years old and her mother would take her to the foreigner’s square in her hometown of Chang Chun city, in the Ji Lin province, located in northeastern People’s Republic of China.
“I used to go to the foreigner’s square with my mother to meet people and practice my English with them,” said Bryar. “It wasn’t until I went around to everyone there that I felt I could go home happy.”
Bryar continued practicing her English skills as she went to school and at a young age of five she told her mother that she wanted to go to the United States of America. Her mother replied that her daughter (Bryar) didn’t even know where the U.S. was.
After graduating college in China, Bryar applied for a student visa to the U.S., but was denied; so she researched her next option to Dublin, Ireland through a student exchange program where she was accepted.
The cost of living was her next challenge; Bryar and her mother worked out an arrangement where her mother paid for the first month of room and board, and for the first six months of tuition. After that Bryar found work to repay her mother back the full cost in Irish pounds. Her mother continues to keep that currency today according to Bryar.
After completing two years of school in Ireland, Bryar applied to the U.S. and was accepted receiving a scholarship to the University of South Carolina in the summer of 2003.
Immediately beginning college in the U.S., Bryar’s main goal was to graduate as soon as possible; she received permission from the dean to take 24 credit hours totaling eight courses in a semester.
“I never partied. I ate burgers in front of the computer, but my focus was only to study,” said Bryar.
She achieved her undergraduate degree in accounting in 2.5 years, and completed her Masters degree as her friends were still working on their Bachelors degrees.
She received her first job with the South Carolina State Comptroller General’s Office working as an entry-level government employee. During her three years there she was promoted twice, but did not see enough career advancement; so she decided to move on to the public sector.
In 2009, Bryar applied for the position of Internal Review evaluator at the Regional Support Group-West, today known as the 85th Support Command, and was called back for the job six months later.
Three months after she was hired as an Army Reserve Military Technician, she was informed that it was time for her to depart for basic training. In the summer of 2010, Bryar’s life as a Specialist (E4) in the U.S. Army had begun before she had even realized it.
“I knew I was working for the Army, but at this point I didn’t realize I had signed up to be an actual soldier,” said Bryar. “It wasn’t until I reached basic training that I realized that I was training to become a soldier.”
There were various challenges she faced throughout her training, but one of the most difficult was the length of time there, and the distance from her friends and family.
“I noticed some trainees receiving Red Cross messages, and I thought about my parents who do not speak English. I thought what do I do if something happens to me here? How will my parents know?” said Bryar.
Even when she was allowed to make phone calls, she would have to consider the time zone difference from China.
“I experienced a few rough times throughout basic training and I wanted to feel sorry for myself, but during the training you can’t whine. You have to suck it up,” Bryar explained.
She also shared her experiences and thoughts during moments like mail call.
“I remember one trainee who would receive mail about three times a day from his mother. I didn’t mind at first, but after a while my name didn’t seem to ever be called and I just felt left out,” said Bryar. “I was rarely called for mail; but when my name was called it was the best day ever. I would read those letters over and over, back and forth.”
One day during training she decided to begin attending mass with her battle buddy to get away from the training environment, but after hearing the Christian psalms, Bryar said it just soothed her.
“I felt sorry for myself, scared and just overwhelmed, but when I went to church it released me from my problems and worries; so I continued to attend throughout the training,” she said.
Bryar began to pray for the safety of her family everyday, and decided to keep a diary which she wrote in Chinese; and following the completion of Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training, she sent it to her mother to read about all her experiences. After reading it her mother could do nothing but cry Bryar stated.
“My mother told me that she was so proud of me, but that I have shown her that there is nothing in the world that I cannot do,” Bryar said.
Bryar additionally explained that the Army culture and training drastically changed her view of life, and its experiences taught her how to handle situations that were out of her control. She learned how to accept the situation in front of her and to move on.
“I used to make lists, structure all my schedules, plan months ahead and maintained my life very detailed. I controlled everything in my life,” said Bryar. “But in basic training you do not know what’s going on until the drill sergeant tells you. I would stand on the drill pad in the morning and just wonder what we were going to do. One day during physical training as I stared up at the stars, it just hit me. I don’t need to know everything that is going on. That night I reflected back and saw that I didn’t know what was going to take place next, but that I was now in bed and I was fine. I was now able to let go of my controlling behavior.”
After returning from basic training and AIT to her assigned unit, 85th Support Command, Bryar took a look at the considerable gap in rank between her civilian and military position. This thought led her to the possibilities of joining the ranks of the commissioned officer, but Bryar felt that she needed more time to learn before she could consider it seriously.
“In the Army it is not hard to learn how to do something, but it is about making sure you’re doing it the right way. I continue the challenge to learn about the Army and always learning something new,” Bryar explained.
Bryar is currently working on completing the Certified Public Accountant exam; she aspires to one day work at the Pentagon in Washington. In 2012, she was promoted to the rank of sergeant and transferred to 3rd Battalion, 335th Regiment, located at Fort Sheridan, Illinois. In 2015, she was commissioned as a second lieutenant there. She is also dual roled as a senior auditor of Internal Review and Audit Compliance Office with the 85th Support Command.
Bryar was recognized last month for receiving a 100 percent passing rate, for the second year in a row, for her command's IR Annual Statement of Assurance (ASOA) Army Reserve report submission. Her work in that led to the 85th Support Command as the only command to receive the 100 percent passing rate, for a consecutive second year, across all of the Army Reserve's major subordinate commands.
“One thing that I feel that the 85th Support Command gave me here is a home. This place feels like a second family with the rides to the airport, welcoming me in for a dinner, and taking care of my car when I was away for training. It makes me feel warm inside to have people stop and check on one another. I feel so appreciative to have that care,” said Bryar.