Steadfast, resilient, relentless
At five foot three, with piercing eyes, Army Staff Sgt. Lauren Montoya, carries herself as a serious, professional Soldier. In fact, when you see her walk in uniform you cannot tell she has a below the knee amputation and walks with a prosthetic.
The Austin, Texas native joined the Army in January 2011 and trained to be a human intelligence collector. In 2013, Montoya joined a cultural support team and did her pre-deployment training with 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne). As a member of a CST, Montoya would engage with Afghanistan’s female and adolescent population. Eventually she would be assigned to a 7th SFG (A) operational detachment alpha team in southern Afghanistan in November 2013.
“I had a great experience as a CST and was able to accomplish a great deal in the five month period that I was deployed. I was able to learn a lot from the ODA and develop into a better NCO and soldier,” Montoya said. “I was blessed to have unique experiences as a female Soldier prior to combat MOS’s (military occupational specialty) opening up and I carry myself with pride that I was part of a small collective of strong women to have done it before it was allowed.”
On March 22, 2014 Montoya was conducting a reconnaissance mission for another team and on the way back to her firebase the truck she was operating in as a gunner rolled over a command detonated IED.
“I remember the blast, and remember being pinned underneath a ton of equipment inside of the truck. I also remember climbing up and down a mountain earlier in the day,” said Montoya. “March 22nd is a day that I will never forget, but it is also the day that I was given another opportunity at life.”
Initially she sustained a crushed heel bone, muscle and nerve damage to her foot and lower leg, a ruptured Achilles heel, and a mild traumatic brain injury. She was told by her first doctor when she returned to the United States that she would not be able to walk well again, let alone run or continue active duty service. She went through a year of limb salvage treatment to include nine surgeries on her foot. After a year of making very little progress to be able to walk, she decided to have an amputation surgery.
She worked for two years with physical and occupational therapists to regain strength, her gait, and power to build herself back up physically and mentally. She describes her recovery as “steadfast, resilient, and relentless.”
“My journey to recover was on and off for the first year, lots of surgeries and hospital stays, but once I had my amputation I never looked back. I underwent one revision surgery, but after a month of recovery I was able to walk and run.” said Montoya. “The adaptive sports program through the Care Coalition was instrumental in my recovery process. I was able to be part of a team again and meet people that were going through similar things, or had overcome them already. I was able to surround myself with positive influences that helped my life goals become reality. I was also fortunate enough to have family and friends that never let me lose sight of my goals and never let me believe that I was my injury and nothing more.”
U.S. Special Operations Command’s Warrior Care Program (Care Coalition) whose mission is to provide special operations forces wounded, ill, or injured service members and their families advocacy after life changing events in order to navigate through recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration as quickly as possible, strengthening SOF readiness helped retain Montoya in the Army. Montoya went through a medical evaluation board and was found fit for duty and is now stationed at MacDill Air Force Base working at USSOCOM Headquarters.