Author James Sherman once wrote, “You can’t go back and start fresh, but you can start right now and create a whole new ending.”
For Mohammed Maaroof, a native of Iraq and an electrical engineer with the US Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Expeditionary District, growing up in Baghdad wouldn’t define how his life would unfold or end.
“My life began to change when US forces arrived in Iraq in 2003,” Maaroof said. “I started working as a local contract interpreter, first with the Marines. When the Marines moved north, I worked with a US Army public affairs unit, helping with the media premises and translations.”
For six years, Maaroof would work for defense contractors who supported US forces in Iraq. He was either inside Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone at Taji Airfield or supporting convoys to outlying forward operating bases as an interpreter, translator, or logistical support as an agent. of purchase.
A 1998 electrical engineering graduate from Baghdad University of Technology, Maaroof has always looked for jobs more suited to his specialty.
“From 2009 to 2012, I worked for the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) as a Local Contractor Project Engineer and Quality Assurance Inspector at Taji (Al-Taji Airfield)”, Maaroof said. “I really enjoyed my time with USACE.”
It was Maaroof’s service with the United States Forces and this engineering assignment with the Corps of Engineers that would shape and influence his future path in life.
Maaroof was also trying to remove his family from a potentially dangerous situation in Iraq, as more and more people in his community knew he worked for US forces, traveled in and out of the Green Zone, and moved between bases for check the projects. Many thought he might spy on them.
After being held at gunpoint and having his car stolen, he knew he had to change the course of his life.
time for change
“In 2012, I was working with the Army Corps of Engineers, and at that time I applied for my visa based on my work providing services to the U.S. government, Marines, Army, and defense contractors,” he said. .
Later that year, after his visa was approved, he and his family moved to San Diego, California, where a different life, a different community, and a different culture awaited them.
“It was a fresh start for us,” he said. “I wanted this to happen because when I worked with the American government and the people, I loved what they were doing, I loved their culture, their community, their way of life, the American system, so I wanted be part of that.”
While working as a project engineer for the Navy Facilities Engineering Systems Command in San Diego, Maaroof took courses and, in 2016, earned his master’s degree in electrical engineering from the National University.
“I was working at Navy bases all over San Diego, and I was doing the same kind of work that I had done before with the Corps of Engineers,” he said. “That’s why I liked this job.”
After nine years working for contractors in Southern California, Maaroof wanted to make his work with the US government more permanent.
“I was waiting to get my US citizenship to apply for government jobs because without it I couldn’t apply,” he said. “I had to wait five years to submit my application and then wait another year to get my US citizenship…that was around 2018.”
Always looking to better himself and better his situation, in early 2020 Maaroof joined the world of federal job seekers, browsing USAJOBS postings for government jobs.
“I missed my days working with the Corps in Iraq,” Maaroof said. “I thought I would be more efficient if I went to a place like the Middle East where I could provide better service than anywhere else since I speak the language, know the environment and am a professional engineer.”
Maaroof searched and luckily found a job posting for an Electrical Engineer position with the Army Corps of Engineers Middle East District in Winchester, Virginia.
“I applied, went through the process, interviewed and they gave me a tentative offer,” he said. “I was very happy.”
Thomas Stephenson, a senior mechanical engineer from the Middle East District, recalled when he interviewed Maaroof for the job.
“We were recruiting for an Electrical Engineer for our Small Design Branch in the Middle East District Engineering Division,” Stephenson said. “His experience and background in electrical systems design were the main reasons for our interest in him. As a bonus, his experience included working with our contractors in Iraq as a local national, as well as his experience in a emergency environment. I knew these qualifications would be of great value to the future success of our mission.”
Maaroof accepted the offer but still had to go through the complex security clearance process. At the end of 2020, after receiving his clearance, he was officially offered the job.
“They called me just at the end of 2020 and said I was cleared; come on board, we are waiting for you,” he said. “It was good!”
In January 2021, Maaroof started working in the Middle East district.
“While not a requirement for the position, his fluent knowledge of Arabic and his familiarity with Middle Eastern culture are also added values he brings to the mission,” Stephenson said.
This fluency in language and culture would benefit projects in the district as Maaroof, barely a year into his public service career, found himself in a pre-deployment training room at Camp Atterbury, in Indiana. He had responded to an internal Army Corps of Engineers email asking for volunteers to deploy to support the new Transatlantic Expeditionary District, located at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.
“It comes from the fact that I wanted to be more efficient, to serve my new country better,” Maaroof said. “Since I would be in the area, knowing the culture and the language, I feel like I could provide better services and be more efficient in my work to the Army Corps of Engineers and my country.”
Today, nearly nine months after his deployment to the Expeditionary District, knowledge of Maaroof’s language and culture has played a vital role in enabling complex projects to meet deadlines and construction coordination for the mission success.
Brian Johnson, Expeditionary District Engineering Branch Leader, has found his expertise and language skills invaluable in supporting the District’s mission in one of the world’s most complex construction environments.
“He worked with personnel from the Public Works Department of the Area Support Group – Kuwait and the Army Central Command, on the development of scopes and designs for eight electrical distribution projects in Kuwait,” Johnson said. . “He has also worked on three ERCIP (Energy Resilience and Conservation Investment Program) projects for Camp Arifjan and Camp Buehring that we are designing in-house. Additionally, he has worked on the electrical portions of the designs in Iraq and Syria, supporting our stakeholders and forces in theatre.”
Asked about all the complex projects he has worked on since his deployment, Maaroof was most proud “to use my engineering skills to design the ERCIP 2022-2023 projects and pave the way for future projects, using the renewable energies of the microgrids”.
Maaroof not only coordinated with local military offices and commands, but complex projects like this also required extensive coordination with the Kuwaiti Ministry of Electricity and Water to connect military installations to the local power grid.
During his deployment, he also achieved his professional goal of obtaining his program and project management certification.
Looking back on his citizenship ceremony in 2018, when Maaroof raised his hand and took the oath of citizenship for his adopted country, he knew it was a new beginning that would forever change his end and that of his family.
“I feel like I belong to this country more than to Iraq,” he said. “Although I have spent more than 37 years of my life in Iraq, and only the last 11 years here in the United States, I feel like I belong in the United States as a country, as a community , as a system of life.”
Looking for new challenges and feeling a deep sense of satisfaction with his new Maaroof plans to pursue other professional certifications in complementary engineering disciplines like mechanical and communications engineering as he continues to seek new challenges , feeling a deep sense of satisfaction with his new position in life.
Mohammed Maaroof, who has come a long way overcoming challenges, struggles and conflicts, has indeed come full circle and written a brand new ending to his life.
Editor’s Note: The Transatlantic Expeditionary District is one of two districts in the Army Corps of Engineers’ Transatlantic Division that provides engineering and construction solutions throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility in support for U.S. military forces and our nation’s allied mission partners.
|Date posted:||09.03.2022 10:15|
|Location:||ARIFJAN CAMP, KW|
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