RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (Dec. 13, 2017)--Mr. Sami Al-Ahmad packed up all of his belongings and moved his entire family to Saudi Arabia from Jordan in 1981. He took a job with a contracting company, and a decade later moved into a position that changed his future--and happily kept him, his wife, and three children in Saudi Arabia. Al-Ahmad was selected to be an interpreter, translator and cultural advisor with the Office of the Program Manager, Saudi Arabian National Guard (OPM-SANG) and brings a wealth of knowledge, continuity, and historical reference to the organization some 26 years later. "I love working for OPM-SANG, they truly are like my family." says Al-Ahmad.
When Al-Ahmad started working for OPM-SANG they were located in downtown Riyadh Saudi Arabia. The headquarters building was located in the center of the city. "We would walk across the street and have lunch at the Turkish restaurant, we did many things as a group," he said. "It was nice to just park outside of the headquarters and walk inside the building to my office on the third floor." That routine drastically changed on November 13, 1995.
Al-Ahmad recalled going to work early that morning to make copies of a brief that many workers were going to attend at the Ministry National Guard (MNG) headquarters. "We got word of the bombing while we were all at the briefing, we were fortunate that many of us were attending this briefing and not in our headquarters building, or I believe there would have been more casualties," Al-Ahmad said.
"The bombing was such a shock, I could not believe my eyes when I saw that our headquarters building was torn away and collapsed," Al-Ahmad recalled.
There were many changes made after the bombing of the OPM-SANG headquarters. The headquarters moved onto the Eskan compound and required special badges for access, the families were sent home, and the military and civilian members were moved into villas on the compound.
"Before the bombing, my family would have play dates with other families from OPM-SANG that lived on the OASIS compound; that all stopped because the families left and the Eskan compound was so far away," Al-Ahmad said. "My commute became more than one hour each way."
Despite the tragedy of that day, Al-Ahmad focused on the positive. "I lost two very good friends that day. But I know if I would have been in my office, I may not be here because most of the damage was done where my office was located; and I think about that a lot."
Al-Ahmad believes that the relationship between the men and women who work for OPM-SANG and the Ministry National Guard counterparts is also stronger. "I am fortunate to work closely with MNG and they have told me that without OPM-SANG MNG would not have reached the point they are at today," he said.
The men and women who work for OPM-SANG hold a memorial every year on November 13th to remember the family members they lost that tragic day in 1995. Al-Ahmad was the guest speaker at this year's memorial.
"We truly are like a family at OPM-SANG, and I plan to stay as long as they allow me to stay."