COLCHESTER, Vt. – For 24-year-old Vermont Army National Guard Spc. 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 United States from Iraq, settling in Vermont.
"I'm from Baghdad, Iraq," he explained. "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 said it was one such incident that resulted in the family's decision to leave their homeland.
"My family member ... used to work with U.S. forces. Militias did not like that, bombs were planted," he said. "After one traumatic event, my family emigrated to the U.S. in 2012."
Arriving in the United States at age 14, it would not take Aljarah long to decide he would serve in the military. "I started thinking about joining the Guard when I was 16," he said.
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 said 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."
After completing basic training, Aljarah went through advanced individual training. He is now a member of the Vermont National Guard 186th Brigade Support Battalion's Alpha Company in Berlin.
"I love my unit, my chain of command, everyone is great, especially our unit NCO, Sgt. 1st Class James Kiel," he said.
Aljarah is in the process of bringing his wife, who is still in Iraq, to the United States. He recently signed on for an additional four-year term after completing just two years of an initial three-year tour.
"I've thought about going into intelligence," he said. "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."