By Geghard ARAKELIAN
After speaking at La Crescenta Elementary School’s 4th of July fireworks celebration, a former Crescenta Valley High School alumnus and current Army soldier prepares to be deployed to Afghanistan.
“I love what I do, so I’m happy to speak about it,” said First Lieutenant Simone Luca, who serves as a military police officer in the Army.
Despite the possibility of being placed in harm’s way, being a soldier was always Luca’s dream and what she felt to be her personal obligation.
“[Enlisting] was actually a dream of mine when I was 16. I wanted to be a [soldier],” said Luca. “Service to my country – that’s always something that [has] meant a lot to me.”
Having graduated from UC San Diego with a major in U.S. history and with a minor in French literature, Luca felt as though she had to give back to her country since she was able to attend her university with the use of government grant money.
“Uncle Sam was what allowed me to go to college,” she said. “I felt that once I graduated I needed to give back … Sometimes you just know what’s right even when you’re too young to know why.”
With the support of her family she enlisted as a soldier in 2006.
While making her decision she considered the concern her family may have over her choice.
“They worry and they stress,” she acknowledged. “I couldn’t do any of this without the support of my family. They’re sort of the beating heart behind this whole thing.”
Now she looks to her task ahead.
Having already served in Iraq, Luca is determined to maintain the battle-ready stance of the soldiers who serve under her command.
“[Afghanistan is] very mountainous, very rural. You’re dealing with a lot of Taliban and insurgency. You need to be conditioned physically to work in the mountains,” said Luca. “I just want to make sure that they have a good head on their shoulders.”
As an MP, her duties will consist of maintaining garrisons and being part of convoys that could transport prisoners.
“I’m ready and willing. I understood when joining that this was part of it and that we were a country at war,” she added.
Luca hopes to take what she has learned from Iraq and apply those lessons when she’s in Afghanistan. According to the MP, “You have to try to appeal to their culture, their sense of family and you have to show some respect [for] that.”
From a tactical point of view, instilling a new form of government or policing an entire country won’t work without knowing the culture of the population you’re dealing with. Getting an entire people to work with you is “not just being arrogant, not just demanding what you want,” said Luca.
What the former La Crescenta resident will miss the most when being deployed are the different cultures that make up Southern California.
“I love the multi-cultural aspect of L.A. I love how you can find every sort of cuisine imaginable … all within a couple of blocks of my house,” she said.
In leaving to serve her country she hopes that people will understand that the majority of soldiers are “just trying to make their way in the world.”
And whether one agrees or disagrees with the war in Afghanistan or Iraq, she hopes that people in general would understand that “there is a price for freedom.”