Skip to comments.Natives of Iraq help Marines survive
Posted on 06/12/2006 4:34:20 PM PDT by SandRat
MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. (June 9, 2006) -- When the Persian Gulf War ended, nearly 110,000 Iraqi soldiers who were captured or surrendered were taken to camps in Saudi Arabia. Most were sent back to their country after Iraqi President Saddam Hussein issued amnesty to deserters. However, 13,000 of the soldiers refused to go home, fearing persecution by the regime.
An estimated 1,000 of those Iraqi soldiers captured by U.S. forces during the 1991 Persian Gulf War were resettled in cities across the United States.
Many of the former soldiers provided valuable services to U.S. forces in the aftermath of the war as being witnessed currently aboard the Combat Center ranges. Men such as foreign language specialist, Ali and Salaam, who asked not to be identified with their real name, are helping Marines and sailors prepare for the realities they will encounter during their deployment to the Middle East. Now as part of the Mojave Viper training package, units are presented with facilities which resemble cities, role players and scenarios that closely replicate the environment to which they will deploy.
But the road for Ali and Salaam, both veterans of the Iraqi Republican Guard, was not smooth. Ali, born in Baghdad, came to the United States in 1992 and settled in Tennessee. Salaam, born in Babylon, followed one year later but settled in Arizona.
In my early days, Iraq was very beautiful, very pretty life, said Ali, with a thick Arabic accent. I didnt know anything different. There was no fear, until the Iraq-Iranian war start. This is when the misery started.
Ali was 16 years old when he was dismissed from high school to be drafted. He was placed within the ranks of the Iraqi Republican Guard.
Life was very hard during Saddams regime, said Ali. I got tortured so many times. People did anything to avoid the war. I broke my own hand just so that I wouldnt have to go with the Army.
Ali said he purposely broke his hand twice to avoid the draft, but it was nothing in comparison to what many of his friends did. One Iraqi dug a hole in the ground, buried his hand which was holding a grenade and blew his hand off.
They refuse to go and fight, said Ali. I know Hussein was a dictator. I have no respect for him. Hes a bloodthirsty man. A lot of my family was killed by him because they refused to listen or they refused to do the things he wanted us to do.
Ali fought in the Iran-Iraq war grudgingly and ultimately fought during the Gulf War. The Highway of Death I was in the middle of it, said Ali, pointing to his right calf. I was wounded with shrapnel. I lost my two cousins there.
The Highway of Death refers to a road between Kuwait and Basra on which the retreating Iraqi army was allegedly attacked by American aircraft during the Gulf War, in February 1991.
I was looking for Americans at the time to surrender myself, because I refused to go back to Iraq, said Ali. Basically, I chose death because at that time you would die. There is no chance after that.
Finally I found the Americans and surrendered, and literally this is when I celebrate my birthday, said Ali. Before that I never had a birthday.
The camp in Saudi Arabia is where Ali befriended Salaam.
Weve been friends for 16 years, said Salaam. I was 26, he was going on 19. Here we are. We are old and still single. But we are here in America, and weve been given a second chance.
Salaam was a registered nurse in Iraq when he was drafted into the Iraqi Republican Guard.
I had no choice, said Salaam. We all know the Republican Guard is very aggressive. They are the ones fighting on the front lines always.
Did I agree why we went to war? No. Did I like it? No. Destruction was brutal to the people of Kuwait, he said.
Salaam knew if he would return to Iraq after the Gulf War he would be killed, but he went home anyway and hid.
I didnt want to die, said Salaam. I didnt want to die just because Saddam wanted to be a brutal dictator.
He made his way to Saudi Arabia to an internment camp, eventually being granted permission by the United Nations to find a home in America.
I returned to my original work as a nurse, said Salaam.
And I worked as a dishwasher, said Ali, poking fun at himself.
During their years here in the States, both Ali and Salaam traveled from base to base, including Fort Irwin, Fort Jackson and most recently the Combat Center, offering their assistance in this war on terror.
We have a good life, said Salaam. We look at the difference. We heard a lot about how we can help them help the country of Iraq. We feel we accomplish a lot by helping out this job. We can say we helped President Bush when he went against Saddam. Ali said they even traveled to the nations capitol and lobbied in favor of the war.
Their feeling of accomplishment meant more to them when the infamous ruler they feared their entire lives was finally captured.
I cant explain to you the feeling I felt, said Ali. I cried like a little girl. I got drunk. Im so happy. I throw big party with my American friends. We could not believe through all those years of Saddams torture we finally found him in a rat hole.
I see him in the court and I ask myself, is that the person that killed millions? Is that the person who killed all those kids? he continued.
Both feel their contributions to the Marines who train aboard the Combat Center are invaluable. Marines will learn from them because they fought side-by-side with the Iraqi army. They feel they know exactly what Saddam loyalists think as well as the foreign insurgents who plague their once beautiful country.
We are happy. Thanks [to] God for everything, said Salaam. Thanks [to] God for the life we live. Thanks [to] God for the job we do. I think we are doing a lot. Hopefully the Marines will learn from us and hopefully it will help them when they go to Iraq. We try to bring them the closest picture before they go.
Now this is an interesting development.
There was a news story on Fox about this camp in the Mojave desert where the Marines and soldiers are training before going to Iraq or Afghanistan. I think it is probably the same as this. It is very interesting. Gen Patreaus is in command there, I think.
I saw that too; it was strictly Army though....Fort Irwin, which is just outside of beautiful downtown Barstow.
The Marine Corps has it's own (and plenty of it!) desert scenario with Twentynine Palms.
Years ago, before urban sprawl began to hit even the low desert out here, we could hear the boom-boom from "The Stumps" late at night, when Twentynine Palms was pretty much just an artillery base....and it's gotta be 30 miles away as the crow flies (probably 100 driving).
You will never hear a Democate report things like this.
They are doom and gloom!!
Thanks for the ping.
Bump! Thanks for the ping - A great read.
I'm glad you saw it too. I heard it from the kitchen and when I went in and watched the rest of it, I thought I had heard Marines and soldiers and I didn't think they trained together. But things have changed so much in the 18 years since my husband retired from the AF, I thought maybe they did. It was interesting, wasn't it? I wish they would do more reporting that shows everybody what great people we have in the military.
I seem to recall that many Iraqis fighters surrendered to our troops, their hands held high, during the first Iraqi fracas. We really turned our backs on them by pulling out before the job was completed back then.
That is the sad part of our first time in Iraq.
I don't think we will do that again.God Bless our
Troops let them finish the mission.
Where the hell IS 29 Palms? : )
MapQuest may help. :o)
50 miles from nowhere and a foot and a half above hell.
Actually you have to bring your own nowhere. I recommend bringing your own air too.
and I have the t-shirt!