NEW YORK—When the New York National Guard signed a State Partnership Program agreement with Brazil on March 14, Staff Sgt. Norma Saderi was front and center, alongside two four-star officers and a bunch of one and two-star generals and admirals.
Saderi, a member of the 222nd Chemical Company, was born in Brazil and became an American citizen in 2014.
Her mission on March 14 was to translate from Portuguese, the language spoken in Brazil, to English and back, when needed during the signing ceremony on the U.S.S. Intrepid, a museum ship docked on the Hudson River in New York City.
Along with Major Gen. Ray Shields, the adjutant general of New York, and Brazilian Navy Rear Admiral Guilherme da Silva Costa; Gen. Joseph Lengyel, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, and Admiral Craig Faller, the commander of United States Southern Command were part of the ceremony.
Saderi’s role was to translate conversations and official statements when Brazilians and Americans were speaking in their native language.
“I felt a lot of pressure,” Saderi, a White Plains, New York, resident, said. “But I was glad at the same time; I was so proud and glad that I could do that. “
“We always get nervous around higher-ranking people,” she added. “It was extra emotional because I had Brazilian higher-ranking officers and American higher-ranking officers.”
Saderi also helped out ahead of time in the translation of the official documents and speeches involved with the ceremony.
While the New York National Guard hired a professional translator to redraft documents and remarks from English into Portuguese and vice-versa, Saderi’s role was to read them over to make sure that they made sense to Brazilians.
Just as the English spoken in Great Britain and the English spoken in the United States are different, so is the Portuguese spoken in Portugal and the Portuguese spoken in Brazil, Saderi said.
“We understand each other but there are some words that are not used the same way, and we have a different accent,” she explained.
Helping Saderi with the document translation duties was Sgt. Suzana Usami, a member of the 42nd Infantry Division’s Headquarters and Support Company, who is also a Brazilian-American. Usami couldn’t be present at the ceremony, but helped in the work ahead of time, Saderi said.
Saderi grew up in a small town outside Sao Paulo, Brazil’s most populous city. She attended college to earn a degree in chemical engineering and was working on her master’s at the University of Sao Paulo when she decided to move to the United States to study at Manhattan College.
Working in that field requires a mastery of English and studying in the United States would help her refine her language skills, Saderi explained.
She moved to New York in 2010 but decided to change her field of study. In 2013 she enlisted in the New York Army National Guard to help pay for her education.
With a major in chemistry, joining the 222nd Chemical Company and serving as CBRN—Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear—specialist was a natural. She is very proud of her company and her platoon, Saderi said.
She serves in the chemical reconnaissance platoon’s second squad, and Saderi said she loved learning how to operate the chemical, biological and radiological weapons sensors the vehicles are equipped with. Each squad member has to know the job every other Soldier does, which is challenging, she added.
She’s hopeful that she’ll move from her current surveillance job to vehicle commander soon.
“I think the chemical unit gives me an opportunity to grow as a Soldier and as an NCO, and I like that. It gives me satisfaction,” Saderi said.
When she’s not drilling, Saderi serves full-time in Joint Task Force Empire Shield, the New York National Guard’s security augmentation force in New York City.
She takes pride in helping to protect New York, Saderi explained. “I like all the different missions and assignments,” she said.
One unexpected benefit of joining the National Guard for Saderi was being able to become an American citizen more quickly than the five years it normally takes a legal resident to transition to full citizenship.
She became a citizen after she completed Advanced Individual Training in 2014.
“It feels great. It was a proud moment. It feels good to belong to both places, although now I belong more to the United States,” she said. “Now I am immersed in American culture.”
With the partnership between the Brazilian Armed Forces and the New York National Guard in place, Saderi said she is excited about the prospect of participating in training exchanges.
Her goal, Saderi said, is to stay in the U.S. military for at least twenty years. She might even switch from the Army to the Air Guard, she said.
“I am looking for different opportunities. I need to have an environment in which I am learning new things, “Saderi said.