BAGHDAD - The sense of brotherhood Soldiers have with each other, whether they served together, with separate units, or even in separate wars, comes from shared experiences that only fellow Soldiers would understand.
For the Hispanic troops on the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division’s personal security detachment, there is a special bond due to their cultural background.
“I bonded with these guys right away,” said Spc. Oscar Tovar, a medic with the 1-18 Inf. Personnel Security Detachment from Palm Springs, Calif., of his Latin American battle buddies.
“I try to get along with everybody,” said Spc. Gustabo Pena, a gunner with the 1-18 Inf. PSD from Miami, “but we grew up with the same things.”
While there are similarities between the Hispanic Soldiers on the ‘Vanguard’ PSD, they say their heritage had less to do with their decision to serve as much as a calling to do the right thing.
“Our culture has a lot to do with the Bible and about doing good things. Part of that is serving our country,” said Spc. Daniel Montanez (right), a driver on the 1-18 Inf. PSD from New York.
For Tovar (left), it had less to do with being a Latin American as much as simply being American.
“I’m American so it just seemed right. The last Tovar to fight in a war was my great-grandfather’s brother at the turn of the 19th century in the Mexican Revolution,” said Tovar, whose father was denied enlistment during Vietnam for medical reasons. “I just thought it’s my turn.”
For Pena (right), who moved to the United States from Colombia at the age of 18, it was about giving something back to his adopted country.
“The country took us in as refugees. They give us jobs, and you can actually get a life for yourself,” said Pena, who is currently going through the process of obtaining his U.S. citizenship. “You should give back to the country, so I stepped up.”
Being Hispanic has had little bearing on how they have been treated in the Army, said Montanez. Instead, they get treated like every other Soldier and are rated on one thing – performance.
“I don’t think (race) really matters as long as you just do your job,” he said.
Pena and his battle buddies have been doing their jobs and giving back to their nation, whether it’s their adopted or native land, for the past 14 months, and they don’t seem to be ready to quit anytime soon. Tovar, Montanez and Pena have all re-enlisted to continue their service to the United States in a time of war.
The ‘Vanguards’ of 1-18 Inf. are deployed out of Schweinfurt, Germany, and currently attached to the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division of Fort Riley, Kan.
Story and photos by By Pfc. Nathaniel Smith, 4th IBCT, 1st Inf. Div., Public Affairs.