A Soldier's Journey: From Ukraine To America To Iraq

CAMP TAJI, Iraq -- 1st Lt. Stanislav Boyko's life has been a journey-from his youth in Ukraine to immigrating to America to joining the California Army National Guard to deploying to Iraq.

1st Lt Stanislav Boyko, a battle captain for the 640th Aviation Support Battalion, plays volleyball at a unit barbecue on Camp Taji, Iraq on May 19, 2011.

Boyko was born in the city of Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine to a family with a long history of military service.

"All the males in my family were in the military," Boyko said. "My great grandparents, my grandparents and my father - they were all in the Soviet Army."

His father was a combat engineer who spent most of his military career in Ukraine. However, his father was deployed to Afghanistan in the 1980s during the Soviet Union's 10-year war there.

"It's kind of funny, because if I go to Afghanistan, I will be in Afghanistan on the U.S. side, and he was in Afghanistan on the Soviet side," Boyko said.

Boyko followed his father and family's tradition by going the military route, attending both a military high school and a military academy. Boyko received a degree in Ukraine in international relations.

At the military academy, he majored in international relations, and his road to becoming an American citizen began.

He met an American girl in Ukraine and developed a relationship with her, he explained.

They then got married and he moved to the United States.

After moving to Sacramento in 2004, he decided that a career in the U.S. Army was the route he wanted to pursue.

He signed up with the California Army National Guard and went in as a specialist.

He received his citizenship four years after coming to the U.S. and then applied for the State of California's Officer Candidate School.

He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 2007. Since then, he has been on two deployments to Kosovo with the California Army National Guard's 40th Infantry Division.

He is now deployed to Iraq where he serves as a battle captain for the 640th Aviation Support Battalion.

As battle captain, he tracks all current operations of the battalion and makes sure that the battalion executive officer and commander are informed with all critical and significant information.

"He is high energy," said Staff Sgt. Obed Jimenez, a Riverside, Calif. native who works with Boyko. "I think he brings experience, and he brings knowledge."

Jimenez said his co-workers see how Boyko embraces the American way, yet still shows his Eastern European roots and his Ukrainian side still shines through. "He still has his accent, the customs and stuff," Jimenez said.

"He may be from another country, but he is very dedicated to the United States Army," Jimenez added. "He talks about how he loves to wear the American uniform."

Where his military career will go, only the future will tell.

But Boyko says he is happy with his job and with the people he works with and he plans to stay in the National Guard.

He said he hopes to use his university degree in international relations to the fullest, both in the National Guard and on the civilian side.

Source: Blackanthem Military News