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Hispanic Soldier uses culture to assist Afghan counterparts

By Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield | 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division | Oct. 2, 2018

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – At 2 years old, U.S. Army Capt. Vincent Garcia said he remembers helping his mother as she would go from house to house providing cleaning services.

"My mother was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and my father was born in California but raised in Mexico, so they mainly spoke Spanish," Garcia said. "My mother would take me with her to clean houses so I could translate for her."

Garcia, the youngest of six children, said he grew up learning the importance of family and communities helping each other.

"I have a big family and we always had something going on … we had parties for anything, we used it as a way bring everyone together and have fun," he said. "My family was and has been supportive of all my decisions my entire life, they are very important to me."

As a teenager in East Los Angeles, Garcia said he relied on school activities and his education in order to stay out of trouble.

"I was in the Scouts, I was a member of the Boys Club, I was a jock and a musician," Garcia said. "Being an athlete and a musician forced me to focus on my academics. I had to do well in order to be eligible to perform, and that's how I survived East Los Angeles."

After graduating from high school and California State University Northridge, Garcia landed a well-paying information technology job, but the attacks of 9/11 inspired him to join the California Army National Guard by his brother.

"My brother was prior service and after the attacks, hearing him talk about serving his country again inspired me to want to join as well," he explained. "He left the service after his first contract and I'm still here, I found I enjoyed the military and loved being part of it."

With 15 years of service under his belt, Garcia is on his third deployment and is serving as an advisor in the Provincial Civil Advising Team for Train, Advise and Assist Command-South.

"I advise the operations and logistic representatives for the Afghan National Army, and the four district chiefs of police and chiefs of security," said Garcia. "My priority is to help them overcome any challenges they may encounter and open lines of communication with higher headquarters like Resolute Support to help them accomplish their missions."

Garcia, who is a field artillery officer in the California National Guard, said he continues to work in the information technology community when he is not in uniform and that he enjoys having two different careers.

"Being in the IT world I think I have gained some experience that has helped me ‘think out of the box' when making a decision instead of just thinking in that military perspective," Garcia said. "As Guard Soldiers we have the advantage of having two different worlds which give us different experiences."

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Kincy C. Clark, the senior advisor for the PCAT, said he is grateful to have a committed Guard member like Garcia, who emulates the term Citizen-Soldier.

"He came into the role of an advisor with technical, computer and sales skills that he was able to obtain in his civilian career and it's allowing him to communicate with our Afghan partners well during our key leader engagements," he said. "He has been doing well and I know he will continue to help the team enhance the capabilities of our Afghan partners."

Yet although Garcia's knowledge and experience have helped him in his mission as an advisor, Clark said Garcia's Hispanic background has helped him better understand his counterparts.

"While there are clear differences between the Hispanic and Afghan culture, they share the prioritization of family and were it sits in their culture," said Clark. "His understanding and awareness of how family can be a priority in someone's life above other things I think helps him understand how they ultimately make decisions."