By David VergunMay 27, 2016
WASHINGTON (Army News Service) -- Joining the U.S. Army and becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen are the best things he ever did, said Sgt. Yaseen Witwit, who hails from Iraq.
After the fall of President Saddam Hussein in 2003, there was more freedom and democracy in Iraq, Witwit said, but not a lot of jobs or upward mobility in the nation's stagnated economy.
Despite having a baccalaureate degree in engineering, he said the jobs just weren't there. He opted instead to work as an Iraqi civilian doing linguist work for the U.S. Marines. He did that work from 2005 to 2008.
Having made friends with the Marines and liking their culture and way of life, got him thinking about possibly joining the U.S. military and coming to the United States, he said. The Marines encouraged him to give it a shot, so in 2009 he did.
Witwit said he studied the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery exam for just two weeks and surprised his Army recruiter by scoring 65 out of a possible 100. He added that he chose the Army over the other services for its generous benefits package.
After successfully completing initial entry training near the end of 2009, Witwit became an ammunition specialist.
However, the Army eventually realized it could use Witwit's talents in a different and more beneficial way, so Witwit became a cryptology linguist. To do that required a top secret clearance and American citizenship, so the Army also helped him with that, he said.
Witwit added that becoming an American citizen wasn't simply to get the clearance. He said he loves America and had wanted badly to do that. He said he considers himself a 100 percent loyal patriot. "I'm really happy being an American," he said.
The Army also helped Witwit navigate the paperwork process of bringing his wife to America, where she's studying English and eventually wants to become a naturalized citizen like her husband. They have a one-year-old daughter.
Although the Witwits are in the U.S., the sergeant's brother and father are still in Iraq. Witwit said he calls his family in Iraq once or twice a week. His mother passed away in 2010.
Witwit's father, who served in the Iraqi army, has his own interesting story. He was captured by Iranian forces and served time as a prisoner of war during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, he said.
Currently, Witwit is attached to the 163rd Military Intelligence Battalion, 504th MI Brigade in Fort Hood, Texas. He's on temporary duty now, attending Recruiter School at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, a career move he didn't volunteer for but said he'll try his hardest to be successful at.
He graduates in three weeks but already received orders to his first recruiting assignment, which will be in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
Off-duty, Witwit said he enjoys watching American movies and world soccer matches, as well as playing pool with his buddies. He splits his music listening time to Arabic songs and American ones, particularly country music.
As for future plans, he said he wants to get a master's degree in the medical field to become a pharmacist or physician assistance.
Asked about the connection between those fields and his current linguistics specialty, Witwit said they're both "people professions" -- and he said he loves interacting with and helping people.
In America, opportunities abound to do whatever you want and to go into any profession you choose, he added. "It's a great country."
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