Iraqi native Marine inspires others

23 Oct 2013 | Lance Cpl. Joshua W. Grant

Battling improvised explosive devices and being an American supporter hunted by terrorists is something one Marine has been accustomed to even before joining the Corps.

Pvt. Wisom Mansureaalshat, an Iraqi native and current student at the Personnel Administration School aboard Camp Johnson is no stranger to adversity.

As a young boy, Mansureaalshat’s family moved from an urban city because terrorists were pressuring the local communities.  He said his family had the choice to help the terrorists or leave within 72 hours. 

“My father had been given property in the city for losing his leg in the war,” said Mansureaalshat. “After we moved, the little money the government paid my father wasn’t enough. I had to start working when I was 12 years old.”

After graduating high school, Mansureaalshat said he wanted to join the Iraqi army in hopes of learning English.

“I needed my father to sign to allow me to join,” said Mansureaalshat. “He wasn’t against me joining, but said he wouldn’t sign. The recruiter said most men who enlist go off to fight and die, so they just let me in anyway.”

Mansureaalshat took a simple Arabic reading and writing test and was sent off to training.

“After three months of training, it was time to be transferred to a new battalion,” said Mansureaalshat. “My paperwork and 22 others were passed over when being transferred into the electronic system, and we were just simply kicked off the base.”

Mansureaalshat added everything he did was for the benefit of his family and after the Iraqi army dismissed him, it was a difficult time.

“I found work in Baghdad, but wasn’t making enough money to even support myself,” said Mansureaalshat. “I would spend $5 each day getting to the city, but only got paid $2 or $3.”

Mansureaalshat stopped working in Baghdad after terrorists blocked roads leaving the local villages. He was stuck at home with nothing to do.

“We had food and water, but no one was working. We relied on money that had been saved up,” said Mansureaalshat. “I decided to do something with my time and picked up an English dictionary. I told myself if I couldn’t work, I would try to do what I always wanted to.”

Mansureaalshat was slow to learn English, but after an uncle visited, he suggested he work for the Americans to help him learn.

“My neighbor was a translator at Forward Operating Base Warhorse and said I couldn’t speak enough English, but could be a worker on the base,” said Mansureaalshat. “The terrorists were hunting the natives working for the Americans, but I wasn’t going to sit around anymore.”

Mansureaalshat completed the screenings and began working on the base. After only 15 days, Mansureaalshat’s dream of becoming a translator was more of a reality.

“I was working on the base, but didn’t have an identification card and wasn’t sure if I was getting paid,” said Mansureaalshat. “I went and tried to speak to a gate guard, and he said I spoke better English than many of the natives he had met.”

After taking a test to become a translator and passing, Mansureaalshat began work as a gate translator aboard the FOB and was later approached to become a convoy translator.

“I was risking my life, but I was doing it for my family,” said Mansureaalshat. “After months, I got to visit my village. I bought my first car and drove back to surprise my family. They were in complete shock, but were so happy.”

After his short visit home, Mansureaalshat returned working as a translator and said after a while, engaging in firefights was second nature.

“I was hit by my first improvised explosive device when I was 19 years old,” said Mansureaalshat.

After more than a year of working for the U.S. Army, Mansureaalshat was given the opportunity to obtain a U.S. VISA. In 2009, Mansureaalshat began his immigration paperwork and wasn’t accepted until Nov. 23, 2011.

Mansureaalshat gathered the money and made the trip to the U.S., Aug. 16, 2012. He knew right away finding a job would be very difficult, so he followed his dream of joining the military.

After speaking to a recruiter, Mansureaalshat enlisted in the Marine Corps and went to boot camp April 4. He said he didn’t know much about the Marine Corps, but when he heard it was the finest fighting force in the world, he knew he had to be a part of it.

Staff Sgt. Michelle Stephens, an entry level instructor at personnel administration school, said Mansureaalshat is a great leader and influence on the other students.

“He does well in his classes, is phenomenal at physical training, but is also very well rounded and organized,” said Stephens. “I think he’s going to go far in the Marine Corps. I see him becoming a great noncommissioned officer as well as a staff noncommissioned officer.”

Stephens added, she only knew about his past from the short biography she read, but said he shows great resilience and he uses his past as a strength not weakness.

“He’s and inspirational individual,” said Stephens. “I would go to Iraq or Afghanistan with him without thinking twice about it.”

Mansureaalshat is scheduled to graduate Personnel Administration School Oct. 31, and plans to remain in the Marine Corps for at least two enlistments.

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