U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Victor Fermin New Yorker Tackles New Army
By Spc. Lee Elder
133d Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
BAQUBAH, Iraq, Jan. 13, 2006 -
He's worn many hats throughout his military and civilian life €“ college football player, undercover narcotics police officer, expert field medic and Emmy-winning sports television producer.
Now, Sgt. 1st Class Victor R. Fermin is playing yet another new role as the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Public Affairs Office for the outgoing 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. While it's been a different assignment for him, it's one he has excelled at, said his supervisor, Maj. Steven Warren, public affairs officer.
"He single-handedly doubled the PAO shop's effectiveness and efficiency," Warren said. "He's a very dynamic leader, and he understands soldiers and soldiering."
Fermin came to the office by accident. An Army Reserve soldier with Company C, 445th Civil Affairs Battalion from Shoreham, N.Y., he deployed to Iraq last spring to serve as the unit's medical sergeant.
"We just get plugged in where we are the best fit," Fermin said. "They pulled me from my unit and put me in the PAO when they saw there was a need."
It's been the latest of many career changes for the 36-year-old native of New York City. The son of a Spanish father and a mother from the Dominican Republic, Fermin grew up playing football in high school and wanted to go to college to be a history teacher.
Fermin continued playing football while attending Iona College in his native city.
However, he didn't wind up in the classroom after his college studies were concluded.
"I come from a family of cops," Fermin said in his thick New York accent. "My father is a retired cop, my brother is a lieutenant and my other brother is coming up for sergeant."
By the time Fermin turned 21, he had completed the police academy and was walking a beat. He was on the fast track to becoming a detective.
"I really enjoyed the hell out of that job," Fermin said. "Then I got stabbed and shot at, and I got tired of seeing the ugly side of people."
It was then that Fermin left the police force and joined the Army Reserve in 1996.
"I was always fascinated by the Army," Fermin said. "I always wondered if I was up to the challenge."
Among Fermin's greatest challenges was earning the Expert Field Medical Badge. It's attained by passing a grueling regimen of tests and physical challenges that culminates with a timed 12-mile road march.
"I worked really hard to get a couple of my doctors to let them send me," Fermin said. "I'll never forget coming back from the march all sweaty and nasty telling them, €˜Look, I did it!'"
After completing his basic and individual training, Fermin returned home. With two young sons, he needed to find a new civilian career.
An old college friend of Fermin's was working at ESPN, the New York City-based sports cable network. He used his connection to secure an entry-level position there.
"A week later, I was working in their video archives logging videotape and putting in a computer database," Fermin said. "Then, I started taking editing classes."
From there, Fermin became an assistant director, then a director and later an assistant producer. He then moved up once more to become a producer for the network.
"I've always been a good guy at getting things done," Fermin said. "You make your name in the business by networking and doing good work.
"That's how your name gets spread around."
In 1997, Fermin and others conceived the idea of profiling some of the best-known competitors of the 20th Century. It was decided the series would be called "The Century's Greatest Athletes."
The series was finished in 1999 and aired later in the year. The following year, the television industry honored the series with the Emmy - the highest award. Fermin and 33 others shared the victory.
"The winners included writers, producers, directors and filmographers," Fermin said. "I think even a couple of gophers who were dedicated to the project won awards."
Fermin said he loves working for the network. His coworkers also have been very supportive of his military career, which is helpful since he has mobilized three times during the past four years.
"They are always taking care of me," Fermin said. "They gave me a big sendoff and they are always sending me boxes full of stuff."
Fermin said he regularly receives magazines, books, football jerseys, baseball caps and other sports memorabilia from his civilian coworkers. Two days before his interview, he got another big package from his friends.
"I'm still getting stuff," Fermin said smiling.
As he prepares for a new role here during the final months of his tour, Fermin has enjoyed learning about the Army's public affairs operation. He said it has a long way to go until it can compete with its civilian counterparts.
"The most challenging part is the logistics of getting people out to cover the stories," Fermin said. "You don't just go call up a travel agent."
Warren, who is also prepared to depart the theater, said Fermin's success is due to his focus on mission accomplishment.
"Whether it's infantry, medical or public affairs, he knows it's all about accomplishing the mission," Warren said. "He came in and was able to get our soldiers to operate more efficiently."