VAZIANI TRAINING AREA, GEORGIA —
Born in Batumi, a city resting on the coast of the Black Sea in the country of Georgia, U.S. Army Sgt. Nikolas Petrosyan made a promise to his grandfather to join the United States Army. Now in 2020, Petrosyan is fulfilling his promise and participating in Noble Partner 20, a multinational, cooperatively-led training exercise between Georgian Defense Forces (GDF) and U.S. Army Europe at Vaziani Training Area near Tiblisi, the capital city in his home country of Georgia.
Petrosyan moved to the United States in 2004 when he was 13-years old after his mother moved under refugee status in 1997. His family now lives in Brooklyn, New York, where he visits frequently. He is currently a proud member of the U.S. Army, serving as a motor transport operator with the 66th Transportation Company, 39th Transportation Battalion, 16th Sustainment Brigade headquartered in Baumholder, Germany.
Petrosyan is the noncommissioned officer in charge of his transportation team as they are engaged in Noble Partner 20. He is also using his knowledge to help his organization complete its mission by bringing his understanding of local culture and five-languages, including Armenian, Georgian, Russian, Ukrainian and English, to the fight.
"The story behind me joining the United States Army starts with my grandfather," said Petrosyan. "He was always my role model. When I was growing up, I listened to his stories about when he was a Soviet soldier himself during World War II. He started off in the navy, but there weren't enough military personnel, so he was moved to an infantry unit and went all the way down to Berlin. In 1945 he met with Americans in Berlin, and that's when he realized American Soldiers are more taken care of than Russian soldiers."
Petrosyan said his grandfather's dream was to move to America. His grandfather asked him to do him a favor when Petrosyan moved to the U.S. – to join the United States Army.
"I fulfill my promises," said Petrosyan. "That was always in the back of my head growing up, saying that I will fulfill every promise I give to my grandfather, to not only becoming an athlete but becoming a United States Soldier."
In 2013, Petrosyan won the gold medal in the Arnold Schwartzenegger Classic and held the title as a world champion kickboxer in 2013 and 2014 in the International Kickboxing Federation World Championship before joining the U.S. Army in November 2016.
Petrosyan has been to Georgia eight-times in his Army career before Noble Partner 20, providing his language and cultural knowledge to then-Brig. Gen. Tony Aguto and Brig. Gen. Christopher LaNeve with 7th Army Training Command while they planned large-scale military exercises.
"I went to Ukraine, came here [Georgia], Poland, back to Germany, Lithuania, all those places," said Petrosyan. "That's why I keep telling everyone this is the best job I ever had. I've done several different jobs before this, but nothing like the Army. I've traveled the world for free, get paid for it, see cool stuff and be part of cool stuff. I feel like that's pretty awesome."
In 2020, Petrosyan is a participant in the exercise for the first time, fully experiencing Noble Partner in a hands-on capacity bringing the same skills he used in the past to his team and 4th Squadron, 2d Cavalry Regiment.
"First things first, I want to say there are about 30 interpreters on the ground working and doing a tremendous job," said Petrosyan. "I would say I'm a flip side of the same coin due to the fact that I can speak the military portion of Georgian and I speak the civilian portion of Georgian, and the same thing for the Americans. It makes understanding the mission easier and faster. In this way, I have helped with 2CR."
Petrosyan said the country's situation had significantly improved when comparing Georgia now to what it was before he moved to the United States of America.
"I would say the infrastructure has grown, I don't even want to say ten times, I want to say 20 times more due to the fact that American influence came in," said Petrosyan. "Before I moved to the United States, Georgia was an extremely poor country during post-Soviet Union times. It was really hard."
Petrosyan spoke about the increase in tourism and the attraction to Georgia. In 2017, the International Crime Index ranked Georgia as the 7th safest country to visit.
"It's absolutely amazing because when I was growing up, seeing Americans was like to see someone from the sky, I would say because it was so rare," said Petrosyan. "Back when I just arrived to America in 2004, I told a lot of American kids growing up I'm from Georgia. They would be like 'where is that?' Now today, when you ask any other American where Georgia is located, they could point right to it on a map and I feel like that's pretty amazing."
Petrosyan will participate in Noble Partner 20 until it ends Sept. 18, 2020. Approximately 2,800 military personnel are participating in the exercise between the Georgian Defense Forces and U.S. Army Europe, which enhances Georgian, regional ally, partner and U.S. forces readiness and interoperability to support regional stability.
Petrosyan plans to join the Defense Threat Reduction Agency in the future to use his knowledge, experience, and language skills to their full potential.
"I want to thank my family, my mother and my stepfather for raising the man that they raised and giving me the opportunities that a lot of kids in Georgia would always be wishing for," said Petrosyan. "A lot of people would love to have the opportunities that my parents gave me, and they gave me the best that they could and from there, I'm only making my parents proud and I want to thank them for that."