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Face of Defense: Army Helicopter Mechanic Earns Officer Scholarship

April 19, 2018 | BY Army Sgt. Maricris C. McLane , 16th Combat Aviation Brigade
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In 2010, the most destructive earthquake in Haiti’s history struck the Caribbean island, killing more than 100,000 people and leaving about 1.5 million others homeless.

Soldier holding a large ratchet works on a helicopter.
Army Spc. Carl Denis, a native of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and a helicopter mechanic assigned to the 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, works on a helicopter at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., March 23, 2018. Denis has been selected to receive a Green to Gold scholarship. After college graduation, he plans to serve as an Army cyber warfare commissioned officer. Army photo by Sgt. Maricris C. McLane
Soldier holding a large ratchet works on a helicopter.
180323-A-ZR018-002
Army Spc. Carl Denis, a native of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and a helicopter mechanic assigned to the 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, works on a helicopter at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., March 23, 2018. Denis has been selected to receive a Green to Gold scholarship. After college graduation, he plans to serve as an Army cyber warfare commissioned officer. Army photo by Sgt. Maricris C. McLane
Photo By: Sgt. Maricris McLane
VIRIN: 180323-A-ZR018-002

Sixteen miles from the 7.0 magnitude earthquake’s epicenter, Army Spc. Carl Denis and his family, natives of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, were among the people suffering in the aftermath.

More than eight years later, he is one of four soldiers in the 7th Infantry Division selected this year to receive a Green to Gold scholarship to be a commissioned officer upon college graduation.

Green to Gold is a two-year program that provides eligible active duty enlisted soldiers an opportunity to complete a baccalaureate degree or a two-year graduate degree and earn a commission as an Army officer. “It was my own determination that helped me out and my initiative as well,” said Denis, who works as a mechanic repairing UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters with the 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment.

'Like an Impossible Feat'

“When I finally got the [scholarship] letter, it was pretty much like an impossible feat that came into reality,” he said.

This achievement continues his path forward.

Denis will enroll at Arizona State University this fall to major in information technology with a focus on cybersecurity.

Soldier works on helicopter.
Army Spc. Carl Denis, a native of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and a helicopter mechanic assigned to the 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, poses for a photo at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., March 23, 2018. Army photo by Sgt. Maricris C. McLane
Soldier works on helicopter.
180323-A-ZR018-020
Army Spc. Carl Denis, a native of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and a helicopter mechanic assigned to the 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, poses for a photo at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., March 23, 2018. Army photo by Sgt. Maricris C. McLane
Photo By: Sgt. Maricris McLane
VIRIN: 180323-A-ZR018-020

“When I commission, I plan to enter the cyberwarfare field, which is a pretty new career field in the Army,” Denis said.

Commitment, Dedication

The competition to receive a Green to Gold Scholarship is fierce, and it takes commitment and dedication to earn the scholarship -- both common concepts to Denis.

From his humble life in Haiti, at age 16, Denis moved to the United States shortly after the natural disaster. As a teenager, Denis struggled to speak English. “It wasn’t a language I spoke regularly in Haiti,” he said. “I knew some English, but I wasn’t as proficient as I am now.”

Despite the adversity, Denis took advantage of his bilingual skill, joining the Army through the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program.

“I enlisted under the MAVNI language program because I speak Creole,” Denis said. “I received my citizenship when I graduated [from basic training].”

Despite living in an earthquake-stricken country and immigrating to a country with an unfamiliar language, Denis continues forward down his path.

“It’s great to see a young soldier like Specialist Denis receive the Green to Gold [scholarship],” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Sakpraneth Khim, Denis’ flight platoon sergeant. “We always want our soldiers to do better than us. He is a shining example of that.”