MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- While in a foreign country, not understanding the language can be one of the most frustrating experiences in a persons life. You wouldn’t be able to get around the country or successfully interact with the people due to an inability to communicate.
One Philadelphia native won’t have this problem and neither will the Marines he is deploying with.
Lance Cpl. Ahmad M. Ibrahim, 26, reads, writes and speaks Arabic, a language that many find one of the hardest to speak. The Philadelphia native is being deployed to Iraq with the 2d Marine Division early next year, because of his ability, one desperately needed by his unit.
His ability to understand Arabic and the culture of the Middle East is a result of being born in Kuwait and raised in Syria. Ibrahim was surrounded by violence for most of his childhood, which increased his experience in 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 went on vacation to the United States and visited the east coast.
“As we went on vacation, the Gulf War broke out and my parents decided it was best for us to stay in the U.S. My first legal citizenship was here in America, because I was never a legal citizen in Kuwait and Syria. My parents and I went through the legal process here to gain our citizenship,” he explained.
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. So I enlisted with an Army reserve unit out of Newtown Square, Pa., but I wanted to experience something a little more difficult,” he explained.
In late 2003, Ibrahim was released from the Army after serving a year and a half, then joined the Marine Corps. He completed recruit training in April 2004. During this time, he noticed a huge difference in the stress level of the two services.
“The Marine Corps has a higher stress level than the Army, because the Marines instill a higher amount of discipline. The art of warfare should be taken more serious, and I wouldn’t have boot camp be any other way,” he explained.
During boot camp, Ibrahim took a language test for the written and spoken Arabic language. He scored high and became a certified interpreter, which will be useful for himself and other Marines in Iraq.
“Because I am Middle Eastern and speak the language it will be easy for me to gain the Iraqi people’s trust. Also, 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 wants to be in the thick of Iraq, seeking excitement and up-close and personal interaction with the people.
“I don’t want to be behind a desk five miles away from what is going on. I need to be right there with my fellow Marines communicating directly with the Iraqi people,” explained the administration clerk.
Ibrahim 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, and I want to be a rifleman with the infantry grunts,” he explained.
Ibrahim 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, and I am grateful for my abilities that have enabled me to be apart of this experience,” explained the short Marine with a huge grin on his face.