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KARABILAH, Iraq ? A native of Dakar, Senegal, Lance Cpl. Pascal R. Cisse, an infantryman assigned to 3rd Platoon, Company E, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, temporarily assigned to Regimental Combat Team 2, poses here Nov. 12. The 27 year old, who speaks five languages, came to United States and volunteered for the Marine Corps three weeks after his arrival there.

Photo by Cpl. Ruben D. Maestre

Marine, Senegal native fights in Iraq

14 Dec 2005 | Cpl. Ruben D. Maestre

Many people traveling to America arrive seeking personal gain and economic opportunity.  Three weeks after Lance Cpl. Pascal R. Cisse arrived in the States from Germany, he elbowed his way into Marine Corps recruit training and eventually into the famed Marine Corps infantry.

“The recruiter told me I could go to boot camp in two months,” said the native of Dakar, Senegal. “I told him I wanted to join as soon as possible.”

The Marine recruiter he contacted in Tukwila, Wash., highlighted some of the job opportunities offered by the Marines, but Cisse (pronounced ‘Seece’) was adamant about becoming an infantryman.

“The recruiter wanted to give me a desk job,” said the 27-year-old.  “I wanted to be infantry and I wanted (its specialized) training.”

Cisse’s response characterized his desire to take on challenges ever since childhood. In a young age category for the martial art of judo, the future Marine infantryman became a national champion in his native country. He left Africa for France at age 19 after completing high school and tried out for the French Foreign Legion.  There, Cisse had a change of heart, opted out and began college studies in Germany.

Yet the yearning for the ‘military life’ never left him. Soon, he was hearing about the legendary U.S. Marine Corps on the news, on documentaries and reading books about the elite fighting force. Eventually, every time he logged on the Internet, Cisse found himself going to Marine Corps’ websites to find more information.

“It was a challenge for me to test myself,” said Cisse, assigned to 3rd Platoon, Company E, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. “I had heard that the Marines were tough and I wanted that challenge.”

The tall Marine from Africa, who reads his French-language Bible and understands English, speaks two indigenous languages from his native country, attended college classes in Germany and graduated Marine boot camp as an honor graduate in his training cycle. Positive traits he has applied in the past continue to be put into use in Iraq—as evident from what his squad leader said about him.

“He is a damned good Marine, he’s really loyal,” said Sgt. Caleb F. Pleasants, 23, of Whitefish, Mont., and his squad leader in 3rd Platoon. “I don’t have to double check his job because he gets it done.”

Cisse put his linguistic skills to use during Operation Steel Curtain, using some basic Arabic he learned from a language course in his command.  He is eager to take on such challenges and Cisse feels so certain about joining the Corps, he is aiming for citizenship and considering staying in for a career.

“Being able to train, being able to travel, meeting people from all around … when we are asked to go, we always go and get the job done,” said Cisse of his mission as a warrior.

As he echoes the Marine motto Semper Fidelis—Always Faithful—it can be understood that Cisse has found a home, at least for now, in the U.S. Marines.

“I’m fighting for the man to my left and to my right so that we can all get home,” he said. “We are always faithful.”