Story by Terrance Bell on 09/18/2019Name: Pfc. Ilie Azarov
Unit: 111th Quartermaster Company, 11th Transportation Battalion, 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary)
Military occupational specialty: 74D chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist
Hometown: Houston by way of Chisinau, Moldova
Time in service: one year
How you would describe your personality: "Opinionated, firm and funny. Sometimes, I'm a hothead, a swear-first-ask-questions-later type."
Pastimes: "I like to go to the gym, play basketball, eat a lot of food, got to the movies, listen to music and hang out with friends."
Worst fear: "Having the fear to not stand up for something or not acting on something I feel strongly about."
If you can do anything, anywhere right now, what and where would that be? "I have a heart for orphans and the hungry because I was kind of broke and hungry myself. I know what that's like; so If I could do anything, I would be the CEO of a non-profit that works with corporations to help clothe and provide food for the hungry."
Your favorite book: "The Bible. It has a variety of stories in it, and they range from serious to great to spiritual, things that speak to you on a daily basis. They're really relatable, they're always positive messages at the end, and there's nothing that too far-fetched."
One person you most admire: (Former NBA player) Kobe Bryant. I've never witnessed another human being with that kind of focus and dedication to his craft: Work ethic -- his work ethic was out of this world. He would outwork anyone; competitiveness he would not back down from other players; he would be in the gym before anyone else. Those are the attributes that lead to success. He's been an alpha-male in every aspect. For a man who wants to one day be a successful CEO, those are some of the qualities I need as well."
Talk about your journey from Moldova: "Myself, my half-brother and half-sister were orphans. While me and my brother were in school, my sister kind of had to work and provide for us. There was a 15-year difference between her and I and a nine-year difference between me and my brother (Ilie is the youngest). We had to constantly fight the government, which tried to separate us. My sister worked for a company working with orphanages all around Moldova. What they did was try and find sponsors for those kids. Eventually, an American who also was a retired lieutenant colonel became interested in us. He heard my sister's story and wanted to meet with her. Between the three of us, he wanted to bring one to the United States. He brought my brother here first. My brother came here to get education, got a job, and then as time moved along, my sister got married to a Belgian guy. I was too young to be left alone, but I didn't want to learn Flemish. That was too much, so some sponsors (Joanne and Weldon Knight) decided to bring me to the United States to live with them (in 2011 at age 15). I flew in on a Thursday and went to school the very next Friday. I didn't speak much English at all. It was a cultural shock, people were asking me questions, and I was kind of scared. I felt kind of like I was on an island with sharks all around, you know. The school and students were very supportive -- they knew I was foreign, and that I didn't speak English very well. In Texas, everything was big, fast food was everywhere and basketball was a big deal in school, you know. I was kind of a chunky kid, and they tried to put me on the football team. It was beautiful, though. It was a very beautiful area I was in, and I couldn't believe it, you know. Everyday I woke up, I thought I was in a dream. There were no homeless people or stray dogs."
When you have been most satisfied: "When I realized some of my hardest goals, like living in America. Since I was 9 years old, I've been dreaming of coming here. My dream was to be like living in this two-story house in this very green area where it rains a lot. All of it happened. Another one was getting my education and citizenship. I'm getting my citizenship on Sept. 18."
Why you joined the Army: "I do like what this country represents, its ideals. My brother was the one who told me I could join the military if I wanted. At first, I said, Let me think about it.' This was all sparked by the lieutenant colonel who knew of this program that would allow me to join. I knew they could provide me with an education and a steady job; I would have great friends and great moral support; and be a part of a family. Since I've joined, I've developed great military bearing and discipline and it has helped me to put my life on track. Furthermore, I don't have to be dependent on anyone else, and my life is in my own hands. At the end of the day, I thought it was only fair to serve and give something back."
What it means to wear the uniform: "It's given me a sense of pride, and you can stand, represent something bigger than you. We as individuals have our own goals you want to make money or put food on the table but the uniform represents justice and that's just a great thing. It keeps me accountable for what I do on a daily basis."
Why you chose your MOS: "I have an associate degree in accounting, but I couldn't get that MOS because I was required to be a citizen. And I wasn't. Then, I kind of switched gears a little bit. I'm kind of a nerd; I like chemistry; and I really thought CBRN dealing with chemical weapons and such sounded great. I thought it would look good on my resume. I was very nave and didn't read the fine print. And they got me with the $7,000 bonus (laugh)."
Best thing about the Army: "The comradery."
Worst thing about the Army: "It's not always well organized."
Where you see yourself in five years: "I see myself with two bachelor degrees, one masters and looking to either go civilian or go officer (in the Army)."