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Meet Your Military: Captain Serves Nation Her Family Chose

support our troops us soldiers family flees salvadoran civil warPHOTO: Army Capt. Susana Guerrero, a behavioral health officer, listens intently as one of her soldiers discusses the day’s cases at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Oct. 3, 2014.CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait– A behavioral health officer serving here with 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, has given more than 10 years of service as an enlisted soldier and as an Army officer. The El Salvador native immigrated to the United States with her family in 1980 and has served in the military for more than 10 years. U.S. Army photo by Maj. Fredrick Williams The desire to serve the country that gave her family a better chance in life was one of the main reasons Capt. Susana Guerrero said she enlisted in the Army. Guerrero and her family fled El Salvador in 1980 during the Salvadoran civil war and settled in the Washington, D.C., area. Her mother had immigrated to the United States in 1977 and left Guerrero, then 3 months old, with her grandmother until the family could be reunited. Guerrero’s grandmother died in 2008. “My grandmother was the most influential person in my life. She was the matriarch of our family,” Guerrero said. “She kept our family together and our values strong, always being there to listen and give life lessons through parables or stories.”

 

A new life, but still no luxuries Even though her family made it out of El Salvador, Guerrero said, they lived in poverty during her formative years. “We were limited on a lot of things, but we never went hungry,” she added. “We did not have the luxury to have name-brand clothes, have our own rooms or have whatever toy we wanted.” As a teenager, Guerrero said, she could not participate in after-school events, go out with friends or do what other kids her age did, because she had to care for her younger siblings. She began working at 15, she said, with every paycheck going to support her family. “I wanted to be different and break the cycle,” Guerrero said. “I realized in order to not fall into the cultural norm and not be another statistic, I had to take a chance and do something different, so I joined the military.” Guerrero completed basic combat training in August 1997 and advanced individual training in February 1998. She served four years as an active-duty logistical specialist. In 2006, she earned a bachelor’s degree in social work while also serving in the Army Reserve. She later earned a master’s degree in social work from George Mason University. In 2012, after gaining field experience and earning her license as a clinical social worker, Guerrero decided to continue her career in the Army, this time as an officer.

A different sense of purpose “I returned to the military with a different sense of purpose,” Guerrero said. “I wanted to serve the country that gave my family and me a better chance in life, and to give back to the military and at the same time continue to grow and benefit from the opportunities it offers.” As one of the only two behavioral health officers here, Guerrero’s duties consist of enhancing unit readiness and the emotional and mental well-being of service members through individual counseling or treatment groups. At times, she provides crisis intervention when service members display and express high levels of stress. “Captain Guerrero is very encouraging, easy-going, and makes you feel welcome to open up and let your emotions free that you may be holding in,” said Army Sgt. Sharon Purvis, flight operations battle noncommissioned officer, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 147th General Support Aviation Battalion, 34th Combat Aviation Brigade.

Giving her children a better life Guerrero said she has used every one of her experiences to ensure her two children would have a better life than she did growing up. “My children, Victoria and Victor Jr., are my true motivators and inspiration that contribute to my sense of purpose at work and in life,” Guerrero said. “It is because of my children and the future I want for them that I continue to exhibit my level of commitment to the military. I see my accomplishment through them.” Guerrero said she plans to make the Army a lifelong career, to further her education and increase her skills to better serve soldiers. “I get great satisfaction when my clients express relief and comfort from my counseling sessions,” she said. “I feel purpose from knowing that I can make a difference in someone’s life, either by listening to them, helping them cope with challenges or just being there for moral support.”

Written Oct. 20, 2014 By: Army Maj. Fredrick Williams 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division

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