Society & Culture

From Baghdad to Berlin, VT: Iraqi immigrant serves in VT National Guard

Spc. Ali Alahar poses for the camera during his annual training period.
Spc. Ali Aljarah of the Vermont National Guard emigrated to the United States from Iraq in 2012 before enlisting in the Vermont Army National Guard at the age of 22. Photo credit VNG

By Joshua Cohen, VT National Guard

For 24-year-old Vermont Army National Guard Specialist Ali Aljarah, military service means being prepared to deploy, “as the only way to protect and serve my country to help stop harm from being caused anywhere in the world.”

And the 88M Army Motor Transport Operator would know. In 2012 Aljarah, with his mother, father, brother and sister, emigrated to the US from Iraq, settling in Vermont.

Aljarah explained, “I’m from Bagdad, Iraq, it was not a safe environment to live in, especially having someone in your family who was assisting U.S. forces, even if you offer a U.S. soldier a bottle of water you are red flagged.”

He explained it was one such incident that resulted in the Aljarah family’s decision to leave their homeland. “My family member who used to work with U.S. forces, militias did not like that, bombs were planted, after one traumatic event my family emigrated to the U.S. in 2012.”

Arriving in the U.S. at age 14, it would not take Aljarah long to decide he was going to serve in the military, “I started thinking about joining the Guard when I was 16.”

By age 22 Aljarah enlisted in the Vermont Army National Guard, attending basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri with mixed emotions. “At first, I did not like it, by the time I graduated I absolutely loved it, it was great, and I would do it all over again.”

Aljarah admitted basic training became easier, “once I started to understand things and why the drill instructors were doing them, even if it was hard training for me, it turned out good, the physical, mental and the resilience training, all these things are good.”

Aljarah added that, “if you understand why things are being done the way they are during basic training, and if you can understand the point the drill instructors are trying to make, and what they want you to learn, you will get an excellent outcome from the entire training evolution.”

After completing basic training Aljarah, “went next door for Advanced Individual Training, it was pretty good, it was not as intense as boot camp, a little easier phase that lasted seven weeks where students were brought together to work and learn as a team,” he said.

Aljarah is currently a member of Vermont National Guard’s 186th Brigade Support Battalion’s Alpha Company in Berlin.

“I love my unit, my chain of command, everyone is great, especially our unit NCO, Sergeant First Class James Kiel, he is great, he helps me with a lot of things just like he does for other soldiers. Even if he is off duty, I just text him, he responds and gets it done, such as any pay and papers work issues,” Aljarah said.

Aljarah considered full-time positions with the Guard. However, he is now in the process of bringing his wife, who is still in Iraq, to the United States.

Aljarah said he intends to remain in the Guard and recently signed on for an additional four-year term, after completing just two of an initial three-year tour. “I’ve thought about going into intelligence, part of the reason I joined the military was to make it easier for the next generation to live around the world in peace and with respect.”

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