Why I Serve: Arabic-Speaking Marine Looks Forward to Iraq Deployment
By Pfc. Lucian Friel, USMC
Special to American Forces Press Service
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C., Nov. 10, 2004 "Because I am Middle Eastern and speak the language, it will be easy for me to gain the Iraqi peoples' trust," Marine Lance Cpl. Ahmad M. Ibrahim said.
Marine Lance Cpl. Ahmad M. Ibrahim, 26, a native of
Philadelphia, speaks to a fellow Marine in Arabic to show him how it sounds.
Ibrahim will deploy with the 2nd Marine Division early next year. It will be
his first deployment. Photo by Lance Cpl. Lucian Friel, USMC
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The 26-year-old Marine reads, writes and speaks Arabic. He is being deployed to Iraq with the 2nd Marine Division early next year because of his language ability, one desperately needed by his unit.
Born in Kuwait and raised in Syria, Ibrahim was surrounded by violence for most of his childhood. He said this has helped prepare him for dealing with a violent society. "I was living in fear for most of my life. You learn to ignore the chaos, but in a war environment you become very fearful," Ibrahim explained.
In 1990, Ibrahim and his family were on vacation on the East Coast of the United States when the Gulf War broke out. "My parents decided it was best for us to stay in the U.S.," he said. "My first legal citizenship was here in America, because I was never a legal citizen in Kuwait and Syria."
Ibrahim graduated from Philadelphia's George Washington High School in 1995 and went on to graduate from Temple University. Being a college graduate, he had the opportunity to become an officer in the military but chose a different path.
"I went enlisted because I wanted that real experience," he said. Ibrahim enlisted with an Army Reserve unit in Newtown Square, Pa., but "wanted to experience something a little more difficult."
He joined the Marine Corps in late 2003, after serving a year and a half in the Army Reserve. During boot camp, Ibrahim was tested on his Arabic writing and speaking skills. He scored high and became a certified interpreter.
He said he believes his skills will be useful for his unit in Iraq. "If we're on patrol and there are ambush signs warning us to keep out of an area, I can inform my fellow Marines and help them communicate with locals if they need to," he said with his slight Middle Eastern accent.
Ibrahim said he is excited about experiencing Iraqi culture. "I don't want to be behind a desk five miles away from what is going on," he said. "I need to be right there with my fellow Marines communicating directly with the Iraqi people."
The administrative clerk said he hopes to do all three of his Marine Corps jobs in Iraq. "I want to do my normal job with admin, but at the same time I know I'll be interpreting," he explained. "And I want to be a rifleman with the infantry grunts."
Ibrahim said he wanted to be a Marine because he enjoys military life. In Iraq, he will be able to help Marines and Iraqis communicate with each other, making it easier for Marines to help Iraq stand on its own two feet.
"I know I can contribute to the war effort," Ibrahim said. "And I am grateful for my abilities that have enabled me to be a part of this experience."
(Marine Pfc. Lucian Friel is a combat correspondent with 2nd Marine Division.)