By Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey S. Mullett
Special to American Forces Press Service
Aug. 26, 2009 - While some people join the Army to find adventure for the first time, a deployed soldier here said she joined to add to the adventures she's already had. Army Sgt. Sierra Harbison, a food service specialist here with Company E, 1st Battalion, 150th Aviation Regiment, Assault Helicopter Battalion, said she first started seeking new experiences while in high school.
"When I was 17, I had just finished my junior year in high school and I was selected through my church for a Rotary Club exchange program to do missionary work in Chivilcoy, Argentina, a small city in Buenos Aires province," Harbison said. "I spent my senior year living with my exchange family and working with children at an orphanage. It was very hard to see so many kids suffering from abuse and neglect, but at the same time, it felt really good to try your very best every day to help them."
Harbison said she became attached to her adopted family, and came to view their father as her own. "He was my second father, you could say," she said.
After the exchange program ended, she returned to Argentina numerous times to visit her second family.
"I have gone back to Argentina intermittently over the last several years, staying for a few months or a few weeks each time," she said. "I tried to visit as often as I could, which turned out to be five out of the last seven years."
The area where her second family lives is a beautiful, rural area with agriculture and horse farms just outside the city, she said.
Harbison had completed some of her college education since her initial visit to Chivilcoy, but at 22, she was seeking benefits. Her brother planned to become a member of the Montana Army National Guard, and he talked her into accompanying him to talk to a recruiter. She liked what he had to say. Harbison, not her brother, ended up being the one to join the National Guard.
The Missoula, Mont., native said she came in as a private first class because of her associate's degrees in Spanish and social science from the University of Montana.
She spent time serving with the Montana State Honor Guard, "doing funeral details and color guards when, due to some personal issues, I decided I needed to do something else," she said.
"I found out the 28th [Combat Aviation Brigade] in Pennsylvania was mobilizing and headed to Iraq," she said. "I volunteered to go with them on the deployment."
Harbison arrived at Fort Sill, Okla., on Feb. 7, and joined the soldiers of her deploying unit. "I have gone from [private first class] to sergeant in just over two years, and I feel like I have so many great opportunities open to me now as a result of joining the National Guard," she said.
(Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey S. Mullett serves in the 28th Combat Aviation Brigade.)