By Army Pfc. John Ahn
Special to American Forces Press Service
June 18, 2008 - Being a soldier means being a master at many things and having the ability to adapt to any environment. For one Multinational Division Baghdad soldier from the 25th Infantry Division's Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, adapting to his environment has been a way of life.
Army Staff Sgt. Hiram Barbosa, a native of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, is a Stryker armored vehicle commander and is responsible for the vehicle crews for the regiment commander's personal security detail.
With his seven brothers and sisters, he grew up in poverty. Their single mother worked at a local bar and died when Barbosa was 16. He had to adapt to his new environment as he moved to Berkeley Heights, N.J., to live with his godparents.
Barbosa said his godparents had an immense impact on how he lives his life today. His godfather is a professional body builder and a police officer, and his godmother is an aerobics and fitness instructor. He credits his focus on health and fitness to their influence. He competed in a body-building contest here May 25 and earned third place.
He said he speaks to his godfather as often as he can to help him balance his daily mission tempo with his commitment to fitness. "He's a great influence in my life," Barbosa said, adding that his godfather constantly wants to help him improve himself in every aspect of his life.
"He was a happy kid," said Tony Martinez, Barbosa's godfather. "You'd tell him what to do, and he did it. He was never afraid, always positive, and he never gave up."
Barbosa's dedication for fitness carries over to his soldiers. His driver, Spc. Daniel Van Houten, a native of Pasadena, Texas, recently began working out with Barbosa and said he has seen vast improvements in both his physique and endurance.
"He pushes me," Van Houten said. "He trains me properly, and he motivates not only me but the whole section."
Barbosa said his dedication to his family drove him to join the Army immediately after graduating from Jose de Diego High School in New Jersey. He said he chose to enlist as an infantryman to fulfill his yearning to "blow things up, shoot weapons and advance quickly" in his career field.
"I was a little bit fearful, but he's a tough kid," said Martinez, admitting he initially was apprehensive about Barbosa joining the military. "I knew he could handle it."
Barbosa is serving in his fourth deployment since joining the Army. He's had two tours in Iraq and one each in Afghanistan and Bosnia.
He said he plans to make the Army his career and continues to become more tactically and technically proficient on military tasks to improve his prospects for promotion.
(Army Pfc. John Ahn serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 25th Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team.)