Sgt. Javier Amador
3rd Brigade Combat Team Journalist
FORWARD OPERATING BASE LIGHTNING, Afghanistan – For most of the Soldiers working at the gate here, the days can become somewhat routine – for everyone except Spc. Dany Gromov, a rifleman with 1st Platoon, D Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, who sees each day as one step closer to turning his dream into reality.
Each day is an opportunity for Gromov, because if it had not been for a chance intercontinental move and inspiration from one of his parents, his life would have been very different and far from what he wants it to be someday.
Gromov is from a town near the Russian capital city of Moscow, and he laughs when he tells people he is from Moscow because he doesn’t believe anyone has ever heard of his hometown.
“I tell everyone I’m from Moscow, since nobody knows the original city I’m from, which is Puschino, about 30 miles from Moscow,” he said.
Gromov came to the United States with his grandmother in 2008 when he was 14 years old. He had to learn a whole new way of life, and he related some of the cultural differences he experienced.
“It was shocking because in Russia, there are mostly Caucasians. So when I came to the airport, there were so many kinds of people,” Gromov said. “I have never seen so many different kinds of people.”
The first difference he noticed was the variety of people, but the way Americans interacted with each other also had an effect on him.
“When I first went outside of my grandfather’s house for a walk, people were saying hello to me, and I saw them saying hello to each other. In Russia, people don’t really talk to each other on the street.”
School was the first place where he saw the nearly endless possibilities for what he wanted to do with his life. He described the Russian school system as a one-size-fits-all program.
“In America, the variety of classes you can take and being able to study whatever subject you want was great. You could take a class on fixing cars, or botany or math if you want to,” he said. “In Russia, it’s a standard program, and there is nothing you can do if you don’t like it.”
Gromov also described how physical violence among the students is a frequent part of the Russian high school culture, something that he had to change.
“In Russian high schools, there are a lot of bullies, and people fight a lot,” he said. “When I first came to the United States, I got in trouble after I started a fight with someone, and it was pretty embarrassing because nobody else was really starting anything, so it was a very good lesson.”
Eventually, his school days came to an end and the question of what he wanted to do for a living had to be answered. Luckily, the answer to that question was close at hand, since his father currently serves in the U.S. Air Force.
“The biggest part of my decision came from my father, who always encouraged me,” Gromov said. “He would show me videos of
the different career fields on the Internet.”
It was a video of some U.S. Army infantrymen in action that really caught his eye, and it was then that he decided he wanted to be a Soldier.
“There were these guys, with their uniforms and their shades with their weapons looking really cool, so as I went through the rest of school, I thought about it and decided I really wanted to join the Army.”
Gromov finished school and enlisted in the Army. After completing his training, he eventually was assigned to his current unit. His self-described ambition and drive quickly caught the eye of his squad leader, Staff Sgt. Justin Gravett, who described his personality.
“He’s explosive; he’s got a really aggressive, take-charge kind of personality,” Gravett said. “He’s also very kind, very friendly and works very well with others. He’s one of my best Soldiers.”
Gromov is counting on those personality traits and his determination to achieve his Army career goal, which is to become a member of the Army’s Special Forces. He is quick to point out that Soldiers will only get out of their careers what they put into them.
“If you don’t do anything in the Army and you just go with the flow, you’re not going to get much out of it,” he said. “You actually have to strive, work hard and be disciplined in order to get somewhere.”
Gromov also sees the nearly endless number of career choices available in the Army, which he eagerly shares with Soldiers who think they have no options.
“The Army has an insane number of opportunities as long as you’re squared away and you do what you’re supposed to do. You can go with Special Forces, or the Army Rangers, or even become a journalist,” he said.
Gravett also has noticed and appreciated Gromov’s eagerness to push himself, to know more and to continuously develop himself.
“He’s amazing. He’s like a sponge, wanting to learn more and more,” Gravett said. “He not only wants to know how to do something, he wants to know how to do it well, and once he knows it well, he wants to do it perfectly.”
Gravett said he foresees Gromov achieving his goal, and he thinks he will be an asset to any unit or team that gets him. Gravett said he knows that although there are obstacles in Gromov’s path, such as needing to improve his score on the General Technical portion of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test, he will do whatever it takes to overcome them.
“I think he would be a great asset to the Special Forces, and I highly encourage him to go for it,” he said. “He’s working on improving his GT score, and (he) will not allow anyone to tell him he can’t do something.”