FOR Staff Sergeant Maria Monica Suarez, joining the U.S. Army was a shot at opportunities not just for herself, but her family.
“I wanted to have a steady, brighter future, career-wise,” Suarez said. “I joined the Army basically for my family.”
The 28-year-old Filipina, who was born in Angeles City in the province of Pampanga, joined the Army from the Guam recruiting station in November 2013. At that time, she was raising a two-year-old child.
“Coming from the Philippines pushes me to seek a brighter future and to start thinking about how can I give my kid a better life,” Suarez said.
She did Basic Combat Training in Fort Jackson, South Carolina and completed Advanced Individual Training at Fort Lee, Virginia as a small arms and artillery repairer.
“During basic training, it was a culture shock — everything was new and you’re exposed to different cultures because the military is so diverse,” Suarez recounted. “But the Army trained me in a way that I would be able to adapt and be part of the team.”
She was then assigned to the 17th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion/98th Support Maintenance Company at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson in Alaska, where she spent six years.
“As a small arms and artillery repairer, I worked on weapons to repair and check on them so they’re good to go for any Army-related missions,” Suarez said.
While serving in this unit, she deployed to Kuwait in 2015. SSG Suarez was chosen to work with the U.S. Southern Command in support of their mission with U.S. Embassies which gave her the experience to see different countries and cultures. She has also participated in and won the Battalion Best Warrior Competition.
“We have educational opportunities, health benefits, and also we get the experience to travel and experience other cultures,” she said. “We also offer over 150 career opportunities, and you have the option to choose what field you want to go into.”
In her eight years of service, Suarez has held various leadership positions, from squad leader to recruiter, and has earned decorations including Army Achievement Medal (2OLC) and Army Good Conduct Medal(2nd Award).
Now, Suarez works out of the U.S. Army’s recruiting station in Pasadena, California and is looking to recruit more Filipinos and Filipino Americans, especially women, who are interested in a military career.
“If this is something you want, nothing’s impossible, especially me knowing limited English before joining. I made it through basic training and in our generation, whatever men can do, we can also do it as well. I’m still in the U.S. Army and am loving every moment in this work. I want to help others see it as a path for them too,” Suarez said.
SSG Maria Monica Suarez can be reached with questions about the U.S. Army at (323) 839-6237.