KABUL, Afghanistan — I was visiting an Afghan army training base the other day when I met an interesting American soldier.
His name is Specialist Mohamad Azimi, United States Army.
SPC Azimi was born in 1987 and grew up in Kabul, Afghanistan. When he was a young boy he had the opportunity to attend school and learned to read and speak Dari, Pashtu, and English.
As a child he also learned to speak Hindi and Urdu from watching Indian movies. His family endured both the Soviet and Taliban years. He has many incredible stories such as the time the Taliban threw him in jail because his beard was not four fingers long. He was released from jail once his beard was long enough to meet the Taliban standards. This arrest convinced him to leave the country and he moved to Pakistan as a refugee.
In 2002, SPC Azimi returned to Afghanistan upon the arrival of the coalition forces. He was later hired as an interpreter supporting the U.S. Special Forces. In this capacity he went on many combat missions and provided vital intelligence by listening to Taliban radio transmissions.
During this time SPC Azimi met his future wife when she was working as a U.S. contractor in Afghanistan. She helped him get a visa to the United States and they eventually married. SPC Azimi and his wife now have one child and live in San Antonio, Texas, where he worked as a contractor until this past year when he joined the U.S. Army.
SPC Azimi enlisted as an Afghan linguist and cultural expert. There are about 50 people in this Army career field and they provide direct support to the military units here in Afghanistan.
SPC Azimi is serving in his previous hometown of Kabul as the interpreter for LTG William Caldwell, Commander of the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan. He provides interpretation for the general in many high level meetings with the Afghan Ministries of Defense and Interior. SPC Azimi has a U.S. security clearance and provides vital insight and advice to his commander on all manner of things about Afghanistan.
SPC Azimi understands the strategic importance of this mission and is fighting for both the United States and Afghanistan. He believes we can defeat the Taliban and is hopeful for the future of this country. He has many relatives living here and he is intent on preserving his heritage. His Afghan relatives occasionally visit him at his camp.
I am personally honored to serve with SPC Azimi and can see the pride in his eyes when he talks about his service as an American soldier. It is survivors like him that make our American Army strong. Thanks for your service SPC Azimi!
Col. Gregory T. Breazile is operations officer for the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan in Kabul, Afghanistan. He deployed on Aug. 1, from the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, and is serving a one-year tour. He is a combat veteran with 26 years of Marine Corps service. Breazile lives in Stillwater.