Face of Defense: Soldier Strives for Excellence
By Army Sgt. Kimberly Johnson
U.S. Division Center
BAGHDAD, Sep. 8, 2010 When Army Sgt. Asha Narayan digs her hands into something, she digs all the way. Her aspirations are as big as her personality, and she says it’s all because of strong values and people who have believed in her.
Army Sgt. Asha Narayan brought attitude and ambition to her deployment to U.S. Division Center in Baghdad. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Narayan, a patient administrator with 1st Armored Division’s Company B, Division Special Troops Battalion, serving here with U.S. Division Center, said she aspires to be a general officer in the Army one day, as well as to earn a doctorate in chemistry. And those who know her have no doubt she’ll do everything she can to attain her goals.
“I love her fearlessness, motivation and willingness to learn new things and take on new challenges,” said Army Capt. Michele Kehrle, medical operations and patient administration officer in charge. “Sergeant Narayan shies away from nothing.”
While growing up in the South American nation of Guyana, Narayan said, she was given strong values from the start from her traditional Indian family.
“Respect for elders is held very high in my culture, so growing up, I knew my place,” Narayan said. “The greatest value I learned from my grandparents is honesty. Honesty is something I value a lot.”
Narayan, who now hails from Valley Stream, N.Y., said she has molded strength with military tact over the years to become the person she is today, noting that her strength came from overcoming obstacles such as having to support herself at 16. Still, she admitted she was full of attitude when she joined the Army.
“My attitude has improved drastically over the years,” she said. “I get told a lot about my attitude, and I appreciate the constructive criticism given to me. I love the person I am today because of a stern noncommissioned officer I once had. I am a lot nicer. I care about other people’s feelings, and I have more compassion.”
Kehrle agreed that Narayan has learned to benefit from constructive criticism.
“Her strongest qualities are her open-mindedness to recommendations and mentorship, and her motivation,” the captain said. “Personally, she is considerate, level-headed, introspective and reliable.”
Narayan said her strong personality is her strength, but her attitude is her weakness.
“That’s the only thing I would change about myself,” she said. “I have come a long way, but there is always room to improve. I work on it, and I change it all the time. I’m proud of myself for that.”
Still, Narayan said, attitude is as important as ability when it comes to success.
“I made [the] commandant’s list when I graduated [from the] Warrior Leaders Course,” she said. “I went there with the idea in my head that I was going to make that list. All my NCOs told me they knew I could do it. I think other people have a lot more confidence in me than I do in myself.”
Narayan said that while she’s proud of what she’s achieved in the Army so far, she has her sights set on even more.
“I think the enlisted side [of the Army] is amazing, but I think of myself as more of a leader, like on the officer’s side of the house,” she said. “I definitely want to retire from the Army. It’s a great organization, and in 20 years, I’ll be done. Too easy. I’ve always wanted to be a general someday.”
Narayan needs to finish her bachelor’s degree to be an officer in the Army, but she doesn’t plan to stop there. She sees a doctorate in chemistry in her future.
“It’s always been a goal in my life,” she said. “I love putting different pieces of information together and seeing what I come up with as the creation.”
Narayan said cultural awareness is another passion of hers. Upon arriving here in May during Asian-Pacific Heritage Month, she volunteered to put together cultural information for fellow soldiers to help them better understand cultural differences.
“It was interesting to be a part of the celebration and show people we are not all the same,” Narayan said. “It is important for me to show people there is more to a culture than what they think.” She added that she would like to be an equal opportunity advisor for her unit in the future.
“It is so important to reach out for a better understanding of cultures,” she said, “because in the Army, we all work so closely with each other.”
Narayan also organized a 10-mile combat medic run, open to anyone to honor the military medical occupations.
“What makes Sergeant Narayan stand out is [that] she is the kind of person and NCO who says ‘What can I do?’ versus ‘Why I cannot,’” Kehrle said. “That is a rare and invaluable trait.”
As Narayan continues to reach above places where others find limits, she said, she never forgets who helped her along the way.
“My biggest appreciation is that my NCOs never gave up on me,” she said. “Anything I wanted to do, they have always supported me. That to me made the biggest difference in my career. I appreciate my leaders for not giving up on me and helping me be the person I am today.”