AUSTIN, Texas — Sgt. Ibrahim Toure had planned and waited for years to make it to the United States, a place he thought of as offering greater freedom and possibilities.
“I wanted to have a better life,” he explained.
When Toure won the green card lottery in his home country of Ivory Coast, he was ecstatic. Knowing a multitude of new opportunities awaited him, he was eager to embark on his journey to the U.S.
He wasn’t prepared, however, to arrive in the Bronx on a bitingly cold day in December 2016. The New York City borough was his first place of residence upon arrival to the country.
“It was very cold,” Toure said. “I’ve never experienced this cold since I was born, so that was challenging.”
Differences in climate aside, Toure, who was 21 years old at the time of his arrival, remembers being able to adjust somewhat easily to his new environment.
He spent his first few years in New York City attending community college, with an eye toward earning an electrical engineering degree.
After a time, though, Toure found himself thinking more and more about joining the U.S. Army, an organization he had first learned about through watching American movies and television as a child.
He spoke to a recruiter, learned about the health care specialist role and enlisted, beginning a process that would eventually take him to Fort Detrick, Maryland, home of the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, or USAMRIID.
At Fort Detrick, Toure discovered a welcome change of pace. “Maryland is more calm; it’s not busy like New York,” he said.
Living in the barracks has also afforded him plenty of chances to join pick-up games of soccer or ping-pong with colleagues, both pastimes he enjoys.
Now a company training NCO with USAMRIID’s Division of Medicine, Training and Education, Toure’s dedication to his role as a Soldier reflects his belief that hard work brings with it many benefits.
“I feel like here we have a lot of good opportunities,” Toure said. “I feel like every time I try to get something and I put in some hard work, I’m able to get it.”
Toure’s accolades include being awarded Soldier of the Year on three different occasions — by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command, or MRDC, and the Army Futures and Concepts Center in 2021 and by USAMRIID in 2020. In addition, Toure earned his Expert Field Medical Badge in 2022 and his Air Assault Badge in 2021. He was also a runner-up in the 2021 Army Futures Command Best Warrior Competition.
Through his time in the Army, Toure has gained hands-on skills in advanced first aid and emergency medical care. He knows how to start an IV and administer vaccines. And he has grown professionally and personally through the mentorship of numerous superiors and the support of his parents and siblings who remain in Ivory Coast.
His service as a Soldier additionally afforded him the chance to become an American. Toure obtained U.S. citizenship in 2021, his application having been processed and approved with help from the Army.
“I love this country,” he said.
He feels equally passionate about his career in the Army and hopes to stay in for at least 20 years.
“I didn’t join the Army just because of the movies,” Toure clarified. “The United States gave me an opportunity; I feel like I have to pay back. By joining the Army, that’s a way for me to thank the U.S. for the opportunity they gave me.”
He can still quickly tick off the number of months and days since he joined — a sign of his enthusiasm for where the Army has taken him in such a brief amount of time.
“Anything you want in the outside world, you can find in the Army,” Toure said, adding that “the Army has some of the best schools in the world.”
As an engaged member of USAMRIID and the MRDC community, Toure greatly enjoys helping the 180 Soldiers in his unit build physical fitness, develop warrior skills and advance their Army careers.
He also sees clear value in the efforts being carried out by his overarching command, Army Futures Command, to prepare the Army for the future. “I feel very proud of being in this command,” Toure said.
Moreover, he appreciates how the Army is “very organized” and that “everything is fair.”
“If you work hard, you will see that people will accept you easily. They don’t care about your skin color, your sex, where you come from — you just have to be a hard worker.”
“We treat people based on merit; if you deserve something, you will get it,” Toure said.