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    Celebrating Hispanic heritage and Army service in Vicenza, Italy

    Celebrating Hispanic heritage and Army service in Vicenza, Italy

    Photo By Maj. Joe Legros | U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Miguel Ortega-Marin, senior maintenance warrant...... read more read more

    VICENZA, Italy — In the midst of Hispanic Heritage Month, U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa (SETAF-AF) shines a spotlight on the extraordinary journey of U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Miguel Ortega-Marin, senior maintenance warrant officer, material readiness division (G4), SETAF-AF.

    Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, is a time when the U.S. Department of Defense pays tribute to the rich heritage and contributions of Hispanic Americans in uniformed service.

    The path of many Hispanic Americans, particularly those who have chosen to don a military uniform like Ortega, serves as an inspiring testament to the American spirit and the sacrifices made to protect American freedoms.

    “My journey began when I emigrated from Mexico seeking a better life in the United States,” said Ortega.

    His dream was to become an American citizen, but he also wanted to serve his adopted country. It was during his initial years of uniformed service that he took advantage of the unique opportunity provided by the military to apply for U.S. citizenship, a process expedited after the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

    “I received notice the citizenship process would take about six months,” said Ortega. “But during that waiting period, 9/11 happened and my unit was mobilized to deploy to Iraq.”

    Due to the pending deployment, Ortega’s citizenship application was fast-tracked. One appointment covered both the examination as well as an induction ceremony.

    “Everything happened so fast,” Ortega said. “My new Army buddies helped me study for the exam in the barracks, and then I showed up for the appointment in my BDUs [battle dress uniform], passed the test and became a citizen the same day.”

    Today, Ortega serves with SETAF-AF and the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vicenza, Italy, a role he cherishes as a dedicated paratrooper.

    The 173rd Airborne Brigade, whose paratroopers are nicknamed ‘Sky Soldiers,’ is the U.S. Army's contingency response force in Europe, providing rapid forces to the United States European, Africa and Central Commands’ areas of responsibility. Forward-based in Italy and Germany, the brigade routinely trains alongside NATO allies and partners to build interoperability and strengthen multinational partnerships.

    Ortega’s assignments have taken him to some of the world's most challenging environments in times of armed conflict, including five deployments to Afghanistan and his initial tour in Iraq. His journey through the ranks demonstrates his commitment to service and to the nation’s values.

    “I am married with four children, three of them born in Italy and one in Fort Bragg [now Fort Liberty],” said Ortega. “My wife, Anusa, has put up with me for 19 years of moving to different duty stations and multiple assignments away from home.”

    For outstanding achievement, Ortega received the meritorious service medal during his 2008 deployment to Jalalabad, Afghanistan. He also received three separate bronze star medals for 2010, 2012 and 2021 deployments, the last while attached to the 10th Special Forces Group.

    Throughout his military career, Ortega shared that his family has been an unwavering source of support, with his wife and children standing by him through it all. Their multicultural household, with a mix of Italian, English, and Spanish spoken, reflects the diversity and unity that is the essence of the United States.

    “My family is trilingual and sometimes you’ll hear all three languages going on at the same time. As a guest to my house, you might get lost!” he quipped.

    Ortega shares that his Romanian-born wife adopted many of his cultural traditions. For instance, tortillas and Mexican food are available at almost every meal at their house. During birthday celebrations, he says you will not hear the typical happy birthday song, but rather the Mexican version called ‘Las Mañanitas.’

    “Carnitas on the weekends and chile rellenos – this is a normal part of our menu,” said Ortega. “My wife is a really good cook; she brings an incredible mix of European and Hispanic food to our table.”

    Italy has also left a lasting impression on Ortega and his family.

    Ortega's assignments in Italy were transformative. For one reason, he met his wife in Pisa, Italy, during an Army temporary duty assignment. However, his work in Italy also established the foundation for a distinguished career.

    His current assignment as the brigade senior maintenance warrant officer allows him to ensure equipment readiness and provide maintenance guidance to commanders. His contributions to the brigade earned him promotions and a recommendation to warrant officer candidate school, a tribute to his leadership skills.

    “The 173rd has seen me go from E-5 [sergeant] to E7 [sergeant first class], as well as a recommendation to warrant officer candidate school,” said Ortega. “I was with the 173rd again when promoted to CW3 and CW4. For all of this, I am a ‘Sky Soldier’ for life.”

    As Ortega prepares for his next assignment in Fort Bliss, Texas, he anticipates working as the senior maintenance warrant officer for the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division. The new chapter in his career holds the promise of fresh challenges and opportunities to continue serving the nation.

    “I am looking forward to this assignment since it will be my first time working in a heavy brigade,” added Ortega.

    Ortega's commitment to service extends to his family as he encourages his children to make their own choices about joining the military. He believes that understanding one's heritage and culture is essential, and as a Mexican American, he places great importance on preserving and passing on the traditions that make America a diverse and vibrant nation.

    “If they want to join, I will fully support them, but it has to be their choice,” he said. “I think all of them would be excellent paratroopers.”

    Ortega's story is a journey of determination, resilience and dedication to service. It demonstrates the opportunities provided by the U.S. military for individuals to achieve greatness, contribute to the nation's defense and embrace values that make the United States such a culturally diverse country.

    Ortega concludes that remembering his family’s origin has been critical to his successful career.

    “Since my roots are 100% from Mexico, I believe it is really important for my family to understand where we come from, to learn the culture and continue with the traditions in our new country,” said Ortega. “At the end of the day, that is what makes America so great.”


    Date Taken: 10.13.2023
    Date Posted: 10.13.2023 10:27
    Story ID: 455712
    Location: VICENZA, IT
    Hometown: FORT BLISS, TEXAS, US

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