AL TAQADDUM, Iraq -- U.S. Marines, Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen recently came together to form Task Force Al Taqaddum, an Advise and Assist team operating from a new training site in a familiar location. The joint task force brings Operation Inherent Resolve’s A&A mission closer to the fight, bringing unique capabilities from all services together under one command, partnered with Iraqi forces.
Many times, these U.S servicemembers work far outside their occupational specialties.
Lance Cpl. Ali J. Mohammed, a supply Marine sourced from Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Division, Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force—Crisis Response—Central Command, is currently at Al Taqaddum with Weapons Company, 3/7, functioning as an interpreter between the U.S. forces and the Iraqi Security Force.
Originally from Baghdad, Mohammed and his family were driven out by an extremist group when it learned his sister had been working as an interpreter for U.S. forces. He and his family contacted the U.S. embassy after fleeing the area and eventually came to California in 2010.
“After my junior year of high school we moved again,” said Mohammed. “I finished my senior year there while working for a security company.”
He said he’d dreamed of becoming a U.S. Marine since his childhood in Iraq.
“The reason I joined the Marine Corps is because I knew Marines who were here when I lived here, and I liked them,” said Mohammed.” I had a feeling I was going to come back here as a Marine.”
When Mohammed first came into the Marine Corps he was not yet a U.S citizen, but all the hard work he put in at recruit training paid off at his graduation.
“I had a green card and I got my citizenship at boot camp,” said Mohammed. “They did a ceremony at graduation in front of a lot of people. It was one of the biggest days of my life.”
After completing recruit training, Mohammed went on to Marine Combat Training and then to his formal military occupational specialty school, where he would learn how to ship, receive and inventory supplies for the Marine Corps. Soon after completing all his training he learned he could put to use a skill he has had since a young age.
Mohammed speaks a specific dialect of Arabic that is unique to Iraq. Many of the interpreters at Al Taqaddum speak different dialects of Arabic. Mohammed said this can sometimes cause confusion.
“I speak the Iraqi dialect; it’s different than most Arabic dialects,” said Mohammed. “Iraqi dialect is one of the hardest dialects to master, and the Iraqis speak really fast.”
When he first got to his unit at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, Mohammed new he wanted to serve in Iraq and volunteered to deploy outside of his occupational status.
“At first nobody knew I spoke Arabic, but I knew translators would end up in Iraq,” said Mohammed. So he talked to one of the officers in the battalion, and told his story. It didn’t take long before the unit’s leadership decided to deploy him as an interpreter—where he could make the biggest impact to the mission.
He explained that his job as an interpreter can be a lot of work. There are several Iraqi units stationed at Al Taqaddum, and Mohammed helps the Marines communicate with the local forces. He is also regularly tasked to sit in on important meetings where he translates for his commander.
“It’s a lot of work sometimes,” said Mohammed, “ but I get to work with a lot of different people and I’m getting a lot of experience out of it.”
Mohammed expressed his pride in the fact that he has the opportunity to help the country he was born in, while serving the country he calls home.
“I’m helping Iraq, which is my home country and I’m serving the U.S., which is my home,” said Mohammed. “This is a big deal and I’m willing to work hard for both these countries.”