By Mitch Meador, Fort Sill Tribune staffJuly 26, 2019
FORT SILL, Okla. -- An Afghan woman who joined the United States Army because she wants to make things better in her native land is now in week eight of Combat Basic Training at Fort Sill.
A native of the capital city of Kabul, Spc. Wahida Musleh is 32 ... and old enough to remember what life was like for Afghan women under Taliban rule.
"At that time I was around, I would say 14, 15 years old. I was not allowed to go to school. My mom's a teacher, so she would teach me at home. And that was the happiest part, when for the first time we saw American people come over there, and I was able to go to school. And I finished my school, I finished my university, and now I'm here with American people, shoulder to shoulder," she said.
After the Taliban was deposed, the strict dress code for women did not relax right away, she recalls.
"Slowly, slowly, it gets changed," she said.
She had no comment on the prospect of the current Afghan government working out a compromise with the Taliban in order to move forward.
Afghanistan has been at war for more than 30 years, she noted.
"They're trying to work to bring the peace. Hopefully looking for the bright side. But we as a young generation are working on it, to bring some positive changes. So that's why I'm here, to educate myself, to get education and use that to go back and serve my country to serve other women in Afghanistan who really need help," the specialist said.
"As you might know, it's not easy being an Afghan woman. It's not easy to live. But we always try to change to the positive way We always struggle to live, but at some point right now, I can see strong women back there, and they're changing their society, the dogma mindset. So I would say that everything's going in a very good way, the right way," she said.
Musleh earned her bachelor's degree in international relations and diplomacy from the University of Afghanistan in 2015, and moved to the U.S. in November of that year.
Her reasons for emigrating were to pursue "a better life, more opportunity to have a bright life for myself and for my family."
She grew up in Afghanistan but did not serve in the Afghan Army; this is her first taste of military life.
"I am so excited," she said.
For now she's assigned to D Battery, 1st Battalion, 31st Field Artillery, 434th FA Brigade. The trainees are already into "The Forge" the grueling, 96-hour, culminating training event. On the day she was interviewed, July 18, they were out on a range, getting ready to work on combatives.
If everything goes according to plan, she will graduate Aug. 2. Her husband, whose name is being withheld at her request, is in another part of the U.S. and will be traveling here to watch her graduate. Her mother and three brothers are living in Afghanistan and will not be able to make it.
"But thankfully I have lots of friends who will be coming, too, here," she said. "I feel really happy, excited, because I've been waiting for this day for a long, long time. I enlisted in 2017. It was a long process to get in, and get investigated, a background check, until everything was done."
She was supposed to have graduated from basic training in March, but unfortunately she broke her right ankle during week four of a previous iteration of basic. It took her two or three months to recover.
"That was the most challenging part, for me to be here. But I always think positive. I keep talking to myself, 'You can do it. Just wait, it's okay,' until I recover. And now I'm here and graduating. It's the most happy spot of my life, so I can achieve my goals," she said.
Musleh gave multiple reasons for enlisting in the U.S. Army. Educational benefits were one. Helping her family members back home was another, as she hopes to sponsor them to come to the U.S. so they can have a better life.
"They're very proud of me. They always send me letters about how proud they are, especially my mom. Let me say that my mom is a very strong woman, and I learned everything from my mom. My mom's like my 'all go.' She's the strongest woman I've ever seen in my whole life I was 9 when my dad passed away, and I saw all the struggle my mom did to raise us as strong as she could," Musleh said.
Musleh wants to get her master's degree in public policy, but first plans to take some classes to improve her English. Her more immediate goals are to go to Missouri for seven weeks of Advanced Individual Training in linguistics and take the oath of allegiance to become a U.S. citizen. Thanks to her military service, she hopes to have that done within six months.
One big plus she has going for her is that she speaks five languages and can serve as a translator.
"I know Farsi, Pashto, English, Urdu, Hindi, and a little bit of Tajiki," she said.
Her battery commander, Capt. Dylan Rice, said her skill sets make her a highly valued Soldier that the Army definitely wants within its ranks. Therefore, he and her drill sergeant agreed she would not have to start over on day one of basic training but would be allowed to pick up where she left off in week four.
If the day comes that Musleh receives orders to deploy to Afghan, what then?
"That's where I'm going to go," she beamed. "I am so excited. I'm going to go much stronger."