AL ASAD, Iraq -- The language barrier is often the hardest part of any mission in any foreign country. A simple misunderstanding can often make potential friends become enemies and break down the line of communication for peaceful solutions to problems.
Fortunately for the Regimental Combat Team-2 Command Security Team, it has Cpl. Ahmad M. Ibrahim, an infantryman and linguist who uses his knowledge of languages to help deal with the local populace.
“I wanted to make a difference and I needed a harder challenge,” the 27-year-old said. “Being a Marine and doing a job like this, I get the maximum benefit of all my skills.”
Ibrahim, who joined the Marine Corps after a short stint in the Army, speaks five languages --Arabic, Farsi, Spanish, Portuguese and German -- in addition to English, which is his second language.
He spent his childhood in Syria and Kuwait, where he learned Arabic and Farsi, before moving to America when he was 12.
His first three years in the U.S. were spent learning the English language and adjusting to a vastly different culture and society.
“I was shocked because there were girls in my school,” the 1995 George Washington High School graduate said with a smile. “Besides that I was worried about asking questions due to religious concerns.
“Growing up here definitely opened my eyes to different views of the world which I hadn’t been exposed to previously.”
Although Ibrahim was a resident of three countries, he was never an official citizen of any until two years ago. It was then he decided to defend his country, the United States of America, by joining the Marine Corps.
“It feels right to be here because this is the only place that truly accepted me,” the 2003 Temple University graduate said. “I have never been anywhere after the September 11 tragedy where I didn’t feel discriminated against except with the Marines.”
Ibrahim’s job in the security team, which is the colonel’s personal security detail, is to assist the interpreters in understanding the intents and actions of the Marines when translating, in addition to providing security for the colonel.
He also translates information for the intelligence Marines and translates for other RCT-2 elements during missions that involve hurt citizens and Iraqi soldiers.
Ibrahim’s job is crucial as he helps bridge communication between local residents and Marines, and he knows that through his actions he is helping win the war in Iraq.
“We’re not only fighting a war against insurgency, but we are also trying to win the Iraqi’s people favor and build up their country,” said Ibrahim whose family background is Sunni Muslim. “We are destroying the image that we as Americans are evil and that people view the Muslim people as evil.
“Neither of these could be further from the truth, as most people of the Muslim faith are disgusted and most Americans see this as an opportunity to extend an olive branch and help a nation and her people,” he said.
Though the mission can be tough at times, Ibrahim knows that his actions and those of his brothers-in-arms are correct and the result will prove positive.
“Even though I have learned many languages, traveled extensively, and earned two bachelor degrees, this is one of the best accomplishments in my life,” Ibrahim said.