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    Officer Candidate’s Voice Resonates Across Continents

    Officer Candidate’s Voice Resonates Across Continents

    Photo By Sgt. H. Marcus McGill | SPC. Stephania Ozokwere, vocalist, U.S. Army Europe and Africa Band and Chorus shown...... read more read more

    FORT BENNING, GA, UNITED STATES

    04.12.2021

    Story by Sgt. H. Marcus McGill 

    319th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

    FORT BENNING, Ga. -- Many people take pride when given the opportunity to represent their heritage or culture. And in a land of immigrants, it is not uncommon for a U.S. citizen to come from multiple cultural backgrounds, and to represent numerous parts of the world. Nevertheless, the story of Spc. Stephania Ozokwere is still extraordinary.

    Ozokwere, a member of the U.S. Army Europe and Arica Band and Chorus, was born in Nigeria and raised there until age 11, when her family moved to Greece. She then lived in Greece for eight years before returning to Nigeria for a brief time and finally ending up in the United States to study at Montgomery College in Germantown, Maryland.

    It was in Maryland that a recruiter visited her campus and Ozokwere discovered an Army program that provides a pathway to U.S. citizenship for qualified Soldiers with proficiency in certain languages. With her ability to speak Igbo, Greek, and English, she was a prime candidate for this program, and at 23 years old, she enlisted in the U.S. Army.

    “As a kid I always wanted to join the armed forces. It was just something I thought was cool,” she said of her interest in joining the military.

    Ozokwere enlisted six years ago as a 68-Delta surgical technician. Her first assignment was with the 30th Medical Brigade in Sembach, Germany.

    It was during her first duty assignment that she learned about the U.S. Army Europe and Africa Band, a unit that performs more than 200 musical shows each year throughout European, Middle Eastern, and African countries.

    “They were asking for auditions and that is how I joined the band. My unit was very up-tempo and my section was actually low on numbers at the time. So I felt like I couldn’t do it because it would mean less people and more work for everybody,” she said about her hesitation to audition for the band.

    However, at the encouragement of her friends, she decided to audition. The first audition went so well that she was invited back for a 30-day tryout. In spite of the important role she was playing within her unit, her leadership was supportive and encouraged her to pursue the opportunity.

    After the 30-day tryout period, she was selected to join the band. Even with all of the hard work and long hours of rehearsal time that the band and chorus requires, Ozokwere describes her job as rewarding and is glad she accepted the position.

    “When I was with my previous unit they talked about interoperability and working with our allies. When I went to the band I actually saw the meaning of those words. You get to perform with other armies and their civilians. Just singing for citizens of other countries and seeing how much they appreciate you, and how much they appreciate the relationship we have with their country, that kind of solidified it for me. For me that is the highest point, actually seeing that and understanding it in real time.”

    THE U.S. AND GREEK PARTNERSHIP: 200 Years of Friendship

    Last month Ozokwere was asked to perform a special virtual routine to honor Greek Independence Day on March 25. Because of her experience growing up in Greece, her leadership thought there was potential to put together a unique performance.

    On Greek Independence Day, the U.S. Army Europe and Africa Band and Chorus released a Youtube video featuring her and her fellow artists’ performing the Greek folk song, The Dance of Zalongo. The song honors the Souliotissa. Since its release, the video has received more than 260,000 views, and Spc. Ozokwere's voice has drawn recognition from numerous Greek media outlets.

    “Our entire Band and Chorus is humbled by such an overwhelmingly positive response from our friends in Greece, and from those around the world. Music shows us those immensely powerful human bonds we share,” said Maj. Randy Bartel, Commander, United States Army Europe and Africa Band and Chorus.

    The U.S. Army Europe and Africa efforts to honor the bicentennial of the modern Greek state are a demonstration of the important relationship between the two countries.

    The U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey R. Pyatt said, “The U.S. Army in Europe and Africa has been an exceptional partner as we have grown the U.S.-Greece strategic relationship from Alexandroupoli in the North to Crete in the South, and I am proud that the wonderful USAEUR-AF band has been part of that partnership. Specialist Ozokwere is a fantastic representative of the U.S. Army, and I am grateful for her memorable contribution to our bicentennial celebration.”

    LOOKING FORWARD

    About two years ago, Ozokwere started to think about taking her Army career in a different direction. In the midst of recording The Dance of Zalongo, she was also preparing to move to Fort Benning, Georgia, to begin Officer Candidate School.

    “I just started to think, how can I contribute, how can I give back, because the Army has given me education, so how can I give back to the Army? So I decided I wanted to try to be an Adjutant General Officer,” said Ozokwere.

    She hopes her time at OCS will provide an opportunity to grow as a leader.

    “I know I am not going to get it all in twelve weeks,” she said. “Coming in as a specialist, I didn’t have very much leadership experience. I hope to at least get a blueprint on how to lead Soldiers. I am very passionate about actually helping them and making sure everything is okay and that they are well. If they are not well, then they cannot perform the mission.”

    Ozokwere doesn’t have to look very far for inspiration as she starts this next part of her journey. According to her, positive Army leaders have made a significant impact to her life.

    “You can’t do much in the Army if you don’t have good leadership. My previous leaders have been amazing. They have been supportive mentors and offered great advice,” she said.

    If her history is any indicator, she will most likely thrive as an officer. She has already done so much. She made it as a Nigerian child learning to adapt to living in Greece, as a full-time Soldier completing her college degree, and as a musician, whose voice has spoken to many people. Okokwere doesn’t consider just one place home, but as she travels the world, she certainly makes an impact everywhere she goes.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 04.12.2021
    Date Posted: 04.12.2021 09:49
    Story ID: 393611
    Location: FORT BENNING, GA, US 

    Web Views: 360
    Downloads: 0

    PUBLIC DOMAIN