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Courage, resiliency leads to life in the Air Force

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas --

It was during Operation Desert Storm the sergeant first witnessed the destruction of war; it continued until the deadly invasion of 2003 and was followed by the life-threatening civil war in 2006.

But he wasn’t an Airman, yet.  He was a citizen of Baghdad, Iraq, where he was born and raised.

As a young boy, Tech. Sgt. Becker Almarsumi experienced the turmoil and destruction that most other people only watched from their couches on the evening news. He witnessed his country’s leader, Saddam Hussein, become eradicated. He felt the pandemonium and anarchy that his absence left behind. Amidst the ruins of what once was a dictatorship where the people of Iraq--wounded but optimistic about what the countries future may hold--Freedom, Peace, and prosperity.

“There were mixed feelings of optimism and freedom as well as uncertainty about the future,” said Almarsumi “When my dad talks about life in the 1970s there, he talks of it as a promising country with a modern infrastructure and opportunities for education.”

The changes started in the 1980s. By the mid-2000s, he remembers the hope would be obliterated by chaos, daily terrorist attacks, and the vacuum of power that quickly took over the country. Al-Qaeda in Iraq (recently known as ISIS) controlled vast regions of the country which was what led to many families fleeing the country for safety. Among those families was teen-aged Almarsumi.

“As an adolescent there were things that happened so often that they just became normal to me like car bombings,” he said. “The turning point I can remember was around 2006 when I was about 17 years old, I started to really feel like my country was changing and I began to feel unsafe. This is when I started to see people being murdered in the streets, kidnapped, and neighbors slowly but surely disappearing as if they never existed.”

It was then his mother and father decided to travel to America with two of their three sons. They would have to hide their plans and travel approximately 1,000 miles west to Jordan in the dark of night.  It was unsafe for people who planned to leave Iraq, some might even say deadly. Once they safely made it to the neighboring country, they spent months applying for immigration.

“There were few countries that helped immigrants in times of crisis and the United States was one of them,” Almarsumi said. “As a young adult I heard the terms like ‘land of the free,’ ‘place of opportunity,’ and the ‘American dream,’ talked about a lot so I envisioned a life of success in America.”

When they got to America, the NCO said it was not as he imagined it to be, it was better. The family settled in Michigan at first because it was the only state they were vaguely familiar with.

“Shortly after I arrived in the United States, I started college as education is extremely important to me,” Almarsumi said. “After finishing a year in community college, I decided to find a job that would help me further my education. I did a lot of research and found that the Air Force could help me do just that.”

He decided to join to fulfill his dreams and fuel his ambitions through the Air Force, an opportunity he heard about through a close neighbor who was serving in the National Guard.

“He talked to me about military service in general and it peaked my interest,” he said. “I started to study for the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. With English as a new second language, it was challenging but I passed the second time in 2008.”

In Spring 2009, Almarsumi’s parents were at his Basic Military Training graduation to show their pride and support. His first assignment was supply technician at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, in 2009. After enjoying four years of traveling with a maintenance unit supporting F-22 Raptor pilot training, he volunteered for recruiting duty.  

In St. Paul, Minnesota, he would promote to staff sergeant, meet his wife, Letitia, and welcome his son, Caesar, into the world, who is now four years old. In 2016, Almarsumi became a full-time recruiter (Tier 2) and was assigned to the St. Louis MEPS, Missouri. He promoted to his current rank last year.

He has never been back to Baghdad but he keeps in touch with the distant relatives who haven’t immigrated to the United States. Recently, his older brother who was left behind when they fled, became an American citizen. His parents and other family members have settled on the East Coast.

“There was no way we could go back and still be alive,” said Almarsumi. “You have to move forward. You have to make it work.”   

Almarsumi, in a short period of time, created a beautiful family, obtained his bachelor’s degree, and furthered his Air Force career. He enjoyed his time as an EA recruiter helping applicants fulfill their dreams as someone once helped him fulfill his. He appreciates his ability to change the lives of his applicants. He looks forward to being able to continue helping applicants through the process at MEPS.

I have had the opportunity to learn so much and benefit immensely from the Air Force,” he said. “I have made many achievements in my time in service and traveled to many places. I wanted to be able to share the generous opportunities that the Air Force affords its Airmen with those in my community. I wanted to educate young individuals in the leaps and bounds that they could make by joining the Air Force just as I did. I knew that I would be able to help a lot of people rise up and become productive, successful, and proud members of society.”

(Editor's note: Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Burgos, 345th Recruiting Squadron, contributed to this article)