Face of Defense: Deployed Mechanic Comforted by Mixed Cultures
By Army 2nd Lt. Anthony Asciutto
Special to American Forces Press Service
FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq, Sept. 26, 2008 For new servicemembers, a military job – not to mention an overseas deployment – can be a big adjustment. But for Army Pvt. Salim Jamal Srouji, both are familiar territory.
Army Pvt. Salim Jamal Srouji, of Norco, Calif., works on the rear axle of a vehicle in the motor pool on Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq, Sept. 11, 2008. Srouji is a mechanic for the Automotive Maintenance Platoon of Company B, 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. U.S. Army photo by 2nd Lt. Anthony Asciutto
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Srouji, 22, grew up in a diverse household in Norco, Calif. He traveled the world with his family and, in his spare time, enjoyed rebuilding go-carts and scooters.
With wanderlust and an independent streak, he enlisted in the Army in January. In just nine months he found himself here, just south of Baghdad, working as a mechanic.
“I wanted to pay for college on my own, without anyone’s help,” Srouji said of his decision to enlist. “I wanted to do something good not only for myself, but for my country.”
Srouji joined the Automotive Maintenance Platoon of Company B, 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, for the remainder of the unit’s deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. His section maintains and repairs more than 300 vehicles here.
Before his time with the Army, Srouji also worked in private security for NASCAR events, the Emmy Awards and elite neighborhoods in his native Southern California.
His father, an immigrant from Lebanon, brought Islamic and Middle Eastern ties to his household. His mother was born and raised as a Christian in Southern California.
“My parents each wanted me to be their own religion – one Muslim and one Christian,” Srouji said. “They told me to learn about both of them and then make up my own mind.”
Srouji attended Muslim school for a short time and learned some spoken and written Arabic as well as the basic foundations of Islam as a preschooler. He switched to public school in kindergarten and attended Corona/Norco Adult School to receive his General Educational Diploma in 2007.
Srouji’s education also took place outside the classroom. The cultural diversity at home took him around the world, visiting the Middle East and Europe. He traveled to France, Syria and Lebanon, seeing family and friends along the way. The focus of his travels, however, was to see historical and religious sites, including mosques, churches, monuments, palaces and ruins. With his father, mother and brother, Nader, Srouji learned of foreign lands by witnessing them.
Now, as a U.S. soldier in the Middle East, Srouji plans to work hard, assimilate into his mechanics team and contribute until the mission is complete.
“My friends call me the ‘motorhead,’” he said, due to his love of working on vehicles.
(Army 2nd Lt. Anthony Asciutto is assigned to the public affairs office of the 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division)