CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, RAMADI, Iraq -- Sergeant Mohamed S. Salim moved from Guyana to Queens, NY when he was 15 years-old to make a better life for himself and to join the rest of his family. At 27, Salim is again trying to make a better life, only it’s for someone else.
Salim is a platoon sergeant with the camp’s guard force. Since his arrival in late August, Salim has conducted nearly 100 patrols through the streets of Ar Ramadi that surround the camp here.
“Most of the people I’ve met here are pretty good people,” Salim said. “All they want is for us to get rid of the bad guys so they can go on with their lives.”
Salim has experience working with the people here. His platoon conducts several patrols through the city each day and has learned the neighborhoods and people who live here.
“After being here for a while you get to know the area,” Salim said. “It’s a small [area of operations]. I know the intersections of the roads and I know who lives in what house, their names and their kids’ names.”
Salim has made friends with many people who live here, but said he never forgets the city here is a dangerous place. The point was driven home within the first two weeks of his arrival when his humvee was hit by an improvised explosive device. Salim was not injured in the blast, but the incident left an indelible scar on his memory.
“I came here knowing that this was a dangerous place,” Salim said. “The IED attack wasn’t a wake-up call, but it definitely put me on point and brought the fact home.”
Initially, Salim took the attack personally, but he quickly gained his composure. He thought of the more than 30 Marines that look to him for leadership and kept a cool head. He said Iraq is a dangerous place but this is what he trained to do. Salim hasn’t forgotten the incident and is still looking for the person responsible today.
“At first I took it personal, but I know that not everyone here is a bad guy,” Salim said. “I have Marines under me so I have to pull back and be level headed.”
He takes his job as a leader seriously and he said he felt the true weight of his responsibility long before he arrived here. Before he left he expected to be engaged in daily gunfights. He’s learned different since, but at the time he wondered if he would be able to return all of his Marines to their families.
“Before we left to come here we had a unit party with all of the family members,” Salim said. “As a platoon sergeant, it really hit home when someone asked me to bring their son back safe.”
Salim took those words to heart, but this is not his first deployment nor is it his first time to Iraq. He served here last year and in Kosovo several years ago. He is used to adversity and the dangers inherent to military service, and he loves shouldering the burden as a Marine.
“I love the Marine Corps and I love what I do,” Salim said. “I tell all of my Marines if you joined the Marine Corps for the money you joined for the wrong reason. You have to love your job and love your country to do this on a daily basis and I do.”
Salim said he is here because he wanted to make a difference and effect change in the world and over the last few months, he has seen a change in the attitudes of the Iraqis he talks to on a daily basis. They are more positive about their future and he has seen how changes his unit is making have affected their lives.
“I’ve seen a lot of progress since this war started,” Salim said. “I’ve seen a big difference from last year to this year and even since we’ve been here. The people are a lot more positive about their future. We’re not going to win this war today or in five months, but with everyone working together and doing their part, slowly but surely we will win.”