Iraqi Native Fulfills Ambition Of Joining U.S. Army
by U.S. Army Alun Thomas, USAREC Public Affairs
June 21, 2023
The images are as vivid for Pvt. Linard
Ablahad as the day they happened in 2007; the U.S. Army conducting a
presence patrol in his Baghdad neighborhood, Soldiers and tanks
roaming the dusty, scorching streets, watched by onlookers now used
to this daily occurrence.
June 14, 2022 - U.S.
Army Pvt. Linard Ablahad conducts an interview with Fox 10 Phoenix
at Mesa Recruiting Station in Mesa, Arizona. Ablahad told the
Fox 10 interviewer about his journey from Iraq to the U.S.,
where he realized his ambition of joining the Army after
years of attempting to meet the Army’s educational
requirements. (Image created by USA
Patriotism! from U.S. Army photo by Alun Thomas, USAREC
A young Ablahad sat on the
shoulders of his father, watching the scene in awe as he
contemplated one day wearing the same uniform as the foreign
Soldiers helping keep the war-torn streets safe for the local
What was distant then is now a reality.
years of trials and tribulations Ablahad is now a Soldier, proudly
wearing the uniform he saw from an entirely different perspective as
a child. The enlistment process took him almost three years, but the
results have been worth the strain.
After deciding to leave
Iraq, Ablahad and his family toiled in Turkey for three years,
before being allowed to move to the U.S in 2017 where they relocated
to Mesa with family members already living in the area.
Ablahad, 22, described the conditions in Iraq as less than ideal,
recalling the circumstances that contributed to their departure.
“Safety was becoming a real issue and the economy was terrible,
so my parents decided to move for better opportunities,” Ablahad
said. “I didn’t really understand the war as a child, but when I
grew up, I started to see things more clearly, especially with ISIS
(Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and all the terrorist
The threat of terrorism ended up affecting Ablahad
closer than he expected.
“That’s where it started hitting me.
I lost my best friend because of it. He was kidnapped by terrorists
who demanded money from his family. They got the money too late, and
they killed him.”
Having made the decision to move to the
U.S., Ablahad and his family waited in Turkey for their request to
be approved, something that was often painstaking.
parents obtained a green card, but we couldn’t just leave Iraq and
go to another country. We had to live in Turkey for three years as
we waited for the process to play out,” he said. “During that
period, I was unable to go to school, I had no education at all in
that time. My dad worked all day. It was very expensive, but my
parents did their best to keep things together.”
2016 his family arrived in Mesa where they were able to settle with
the assistance of relatives.
“We had cousins in Mesa who
helped support us once we landed here,” Ablahad recalled. “My dad
was working within two days of arriving. I went to Mountain View
High School and really had no idea what I was doing.”
language barrier proved to be immense for Ablahad, but he buckled
down and learned to grasp English through a variety of methods.
“It was very difficult at the beginning … I didn’t understand
English, and people looked at me differently,” Ablahad said. “I
understood why, and it didn’t bother me too much. I was very quiet
and trying to pay attention to things people said and did, which
helped me learn faster. I also watched a lot of movies and read as
many books as I could.”
Ablahad still had a dream of joining
the Army and even before graduating high school he had begun
visiting the recruiters at Mesa Recruiting Station, Tempe Recruiting
Company, to explore his options.
“I’ve always wanted to help
make the world a better place and being the Army is a way I can help
do that,” Ablahad said. “I was scared at first … can I get through
this? How will I do it? A lot of things went through my head and
sometimes I felt I couldn’t do it. The process seemed impossible.”
Ablahad failed the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery
(ASVAB) on multiple occasions as he struggled to make the minimum
score to be able to enlist. Fortunately for Ablahad a new Army
tutoring program March2Success assisted him in increasing his score
18 points above the national average.
“The recruiters here
helped me through all of that over the last few years. I kept
failing the ASVAB over and over,” Ablahad remembered. “Slowly, I
improved and with the help of the recruiters and the tutoring
program I was finally able to pass. I took the job of Automated
Assisting Ablahad during his entire
enlistment process was Staff Sgt. Nga Lao, recruiter, Mesa
Recruiting Station, who guided him through his learning
difficulties, herself a naturalized citizen from China.
very happy for him. When I first met him, he told me his English
wasn’t good so please bear with me,” Lao said. “I told him I was
once in the same position as him and he’d be fine. His English was
an obstacle when trying to pass the ASVAB, but he made it through.”
Lao said she’s delighted to see Ablahad meet his goal of
becoming a Soldier, with a family who’s extremely proud of him.
“He’s a family person and he decided to go to Fort Bliss, Texas,
as his first duty station to be closer to his family, Lao said. “He
could have gone to a number of places, but that’s what he wanted.
Ablahad completed his Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson,
S.C., where he admitted to being overwhelmed by the experience.
“Basic training was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was a
completely different experience,” he stated. “There were moments
when I asked myself why I was here, but then I looked back to where
I’d come from and there was no way I could quit. I was doing it for
me, my family, and a better way of life.”
his Advanced Individual Training at Fort Gregg-Adams, Va., and
returned to the Mesa station to participate in the Hometown
Recruiter Assistance Program for two weeks, before leaving for Fort
Bliss on June 23.
“I’m nervous, but excited at the same
time. I want to move up through the ranks and do this as long as
possible,” Ablahad said. “I’m grateful for the opportunities this
country has given me. Coming to America and being able to change my
life and of those around me is amazing.”
For Ablahad, life
has truly come full circle since those distant days in Baghdad.
“I was so little when I saw those tanks come down the street …
as a kid I thought that was the coolest thing,” he said. “I wished
then I could be a part of it. Now, here I am – a Soldier.”
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