Written by Sgt. Matthew Britton
27th Public Affairs Detachment
Monrovia, Liberia – Every job in the military has its own unique level of difficulty. Service members have come to learn that becoming an expert in their job doesn’t happen overnight but is instead crafted over time. Some even become proficient in their original jobs and those of others that they have little-to-no experience in. But troops adapt, overcome and just like the Army song, they keep on rolling along.
This week, Sgt. Yinette Lizardo, water purification specialist, Company E, 2nd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas, was recognized for not only her own outstanding performance, but also the additional jobs she completed for the troops here.Every Friday after the morning briefing at the Barclay Training Center here, a service member supporting Joint Forces Command – United Assistance, U.S. Agency for International Development-led mission, Operation United Assistance, is selected as the service member of the week by Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky, commanding general, JFC-UA. Volesky recognizes them with a coin and takes them on a flight around JFC-UA area of operations to see the work that’s been accomplished.
During her recognition, Lizardo was praised by others in her unit for her performance and ability as a sergeant to perform on a level two ranks above her current rank since she has been on ground.
“It’s been a different experience for me,” said Lizardo. “I’ve been able to show what I can do and it feels great. I’m not just stuck in a office; I’m able to get out and help people.”
Lizardo was on the advanced echelon flight that put her in Liberia ahead of her chain of command, where she immediately started establishing the power grid and making sleeping arrangements for her unit’s new home for when they arrived, she said.
“We started making stuff happen as far as getting the generators set up so that everyone would have power connectivity and AC,” said Lizardo. “We also ensured we’d be able to feed everybody and have water for all the Soldiers. I coordinated with other units to accommodate a place for us to sleep and I’d travel back and forth trying to make resources available and network to make our living a lot better.”
Once her unit made it here, Lizardo said they placed her in several different jobs that she has never previously done.
“They put me to work with supply,” said Lizardo. “Something I’ve never done before; it’s been a great experience. I’ve helped Soldiers with fueling, ground maintenance and I’ve already been able to do all types of mechanical jobs. Anything with an engine and runs, I’ve fixed it all.”
Proud of her work and supporting the mission, Lizardo said she wasn’t concerned about contracting the Ebola virus.
Although Lizardo is confident in her training, her family, like some of the families of service members in support of OUA here, has fears because of what they see on the news.
“I tell my family back home not to worry about what they see on TV,” said Lizardo. “They start to, but I stop it right there and tell them not to worry. They weren’t sure why I was coming and said stuff like, ‘You’re not a doctor or a nurse, so why are you going over there?’ They didn’t understand the big picture, but I tell them how we’re helping the people here and the work I’m doing. They’ve become far less concerned. Regardless of who it is, I like the feeling of helping people. ”
Her father’s service in the Dominican Republic’s Navy is her inspiration to join the military, said Lizardo.
“One of my cousins was in the military and wouldn’t even let me think about joining,” said Lizardo with a smile. “I felt like I needed something else in my life. I wanted something for my family to be proud of and I’ve accomplished that. They’re very proud of what I do.”
Before this deployment, Lizardo said she was facing medical retirement from an injury she sustained while serving in the Army. Her dream of making a career in the military was about to be cut short.
“I was given a full medical retirement and 70 percent (Veterans Assistance) disability,” said Lizardo. “I want to make a career out of the Army, and I’m not ready to end it. I wanted to keep pushing. I rehabilitated myself to the point where I flew to Washington and sat on a board to explain my reasons to stay in. I was risking a lot, but it turned out I was found fit for duty. I found out in August and was very excited. As soon as I got the OK, I reenlisted and continued moving forward.”