FIVE HILLS TRAINING AREA, TAVANTOLGOI, Mongolia — When you think of home, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For some, it’s the place you were born. For others, it’s the place where you make a life for yourself. For one U.S. soldier, it is so much more.
U.S. Army Spc. Gunbold Ligden, an Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, native, is an infantryman with 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade, 25th Infantry Division. Ligden is currently deployed to Mongolia to participate in Khaan Quest 2015.
Ligden lived in Ulaanbaatar for 15 years until he came upon a very rare chance to live and study in the U.S. under a privately funded foreign exchange program in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
“Moving to the United States was wonderful!” said Ligden, 28. “When I lived in Mongolia, I watched a lot of Hollywood films. I had many expectations about the culture that I had seen through my exposure to popular media. I grew up watching movies with action stars such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Jean-Claude Van Damme, so I grew up with an admiration for the U.S. military because of that. While I did not have any exposure to the American military while I lived in Mongolia, I did get a lot of exposure to the U.S. culture at a young age, which allowed me to practice my English and adapt to the American culture.”
After high school, Ligden attended Broward Community College and majored in business. Shortly after, he transferred to Nova Southeastern University and almost immediately after that, attended graduate school at the H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship. It was at this point in his life when he discovered a higher calling.
“I was given the opportunity to grow, thrive and prosper in the United States, and I’ve seen all the good that the United States does throughout the world,” Ligden said. “There were all these things that I appreciated about this country. Living in the United States and reaping all of the benefits that the country has to offer comes at a price. I found myself at a position where I was the beneficiary of many things, so it made sense for me to give back and pay it forward, and one of those ways I know is through military service.”
Joining the military is a serious and life-altering decision for anyone to make in any country. Input from family members and peers can play a significant role in the decision to commit.
“My family was quite shocked at my decision to join the [military], particularly in the United States,” Ligden said. “They weren’t sure if it was the best choice for me going forward, but I explained to them how this would help me grow and actually create many opportunities further down the road. They were very understanding and respected my decision and career choices thus far.”
Ligden joined the U.S. Army in April 2013 and began the nine weeks of basic military training at Fort Benning, Georgia, which immediately rolled into four to five weeks of infantry training. Ligden completed his training in August later that year, and upon graduation, received orders to Fort Wainwright, Alaska, where he is currently stationed.
“I’ve met a lot of different soldiers along the way with varying levels of experience and various cultures,” Ligden said. “It has been very enriching. It has helped me grow physically, mentally, emotionally and it’s helping me take my life to the next stage.”
Military service can be one of the most adventurous and rewarding career choices that anyone can make. It will introduce you to all kinds of cultures and people who will create impressions that last a lifetime.
“Early on in my life, I wondered how I may be of service to my community, family, country and the world as a whole,” Ligden said. “I always thought about ways to bridge the gap and make a connection between Mongolia, which is the place of my ancestry, and the United States, which is my new home. I draw from my experiences from both environments to try to help make connections. It’s actually quite amazing that I’m in a position where I can really make an impact by translating and being an ambassador representing the U.S. Army in my homeland.”