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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 Public Affairs.)
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 Public Affairs.)

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 population.

What was distant then is now a reality.

After 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 actions.”

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.

“My 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.”

Finally in 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.”

The 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 Logistics Specialist.”

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.

“I’m 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.”

Ablahad completed 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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