SSG Ahmed Younes grew up in southern Iraq with his two brothers, his veterinarian father, and his school teacher mother. His experience during the Gulf War included seeing increased Iraqi Army checkpoints, and people migrating to the countryside as the cities were being bombed. When the Americans arrived to liberate Iraq in 2003, he secured a job as a translator, eventually making as much as $610 per month. He continued working for the Army and the Marines, which he enjoyed despite having to deal with occasional death threats. After several years of working with the American military, he decided to immigrate to the United States, choosing Phoenix, Arizona because the climate was similar to Iraq. In 2010, he joined the U.S. Army as an 09L, translator / interpreter. Basic Training was a pivotal event, and his Drill Sergeant became a lifelong mentor. While in Advanced Individual Training (AIT), he became an American citizen. During his career, he returned to Iraq as an American Soldier, and found himself longing to return to the States. Currently he works at Fort Huachuca as an instructor, but hopes to become a Drill Sergeant so he can teach young Soldiers to embrace the Army culture.
In this interview, SSG Younes talks about his childhood, and his experiences working with American Solders. He describes some cultural differences, and the challenges of being an interpreter. He reflects on Basic Training and the lessons he learned from his mentor. Finally, he explains what his service and America mean to him, and why he wants to pay forward what he’s received to the next generation.