Female Iraqi Translator Joins U.S. Marines

Female Iraqi Translator Joins U.S. Marines

30-year old Rct. Aseel Salman worked as a translator with the Army in Baghdad in 2003 after an American soldier was shot and they needed help with the investigation. Now Salman will use her talents for the U.S. Marines.

Salman was born in an all-female family, which caused problems in the patriarchal country. She said it was hard to be treated differently simply because they did not have a male family member. This changed when she told the Army she could speak English and Arabic. She worked with them for six years on many raids and missions. 

“We went out on a raid once, and I went into a house with three women in it,” said Salman. “I asked if they knew where this man was, and they all said no. Then, one woman whispered to me that she knew where he was and to meet her outside. Once outside, she warned us, saying ‘be careful, they are across the street with five loaded AK-47s.’ We later caught them.”

Salman met her husband, an American military contractor, and moved to the United States with him in 2008. She decided the situation in Iraq was too dangerous for her because of violence against translators and received a visa for immigrants who helped the U.S. overseas.

“I flew into the U.S. on Dec. 22, 2008,” said Salman of her layover in New York. “I remember it was so beautiful with all the snow. I was talking to these two other women, and I was so worried they would know I was Iraqi. They had no idea that I had never been in the United States before that night.”

Salman settled down in Houston with her husband, a U.S. military contractor who she met in Iraq. The real struggle began when he left for another tour overseas.

“I didn’t even know how to pump gas when he left,” said Salman. “I remember stopping at a gas station and crying until a nice man helped me pump my gas. I also remember the first time I stepped in Wal-Mart … it was so amazing.”

After the move, she decided to join the Marines but did not meet all the requirements. She stayed in the delayed entry program for 15 months until June 6, 2013 when she was finally able to join. She shipped to Parris Island on July 22, 2013, but it was not always an easy ride. She dropped back because she did not qualify on the rifle range. The situation did not bring her down, even though it took four weeks for her to jump back in and join a new platoon.

“I believe that everything happens for a reason and that I was supposed to be with these girls,” said Salman.

Sgt. Sylvia Washington, one of Salman’s drill instructors, has nothing but good things to say about her.

“When she first got here, she stepped back and observed,” said Washington, a 27-year-old native of Manteca, Calif. “Once the senior [drill instructor] made her guide, she really took charge; we really depend on her for a lot of things.”