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Posted: August 23, 2018 12:57 p.m.
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The long journey home Sustainment Soldier returns to roots in Afghanistan

Sgt. Elizabeth White/

Sgt. Hameedullah Qasimi, a motor transport operator assigned to the 3rd ID RSSB security platoon, is a native of the Wardak province in Afghanistan.

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A splash of green in the mountainous desert of Afghanistan marks Wardak province. A local boy runs up the hills of the Hindu Kush Mountains with his friends. Sgt. Hameedullah Qasimi, a future operations planner with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade, recounts his life in his home village.  

“Living in Wardak is the way it sounds, a third world country,” said Qasimi. “A lot of stuff people have in the States we never had like hot water, showers, stuff like that. Sometimes we took showers in the river.”

The province is not very populated and a lot of the villagers are uneducated, he said. Another aspect of living in the province was the threat of danger both past and present. Remnants of the Soviet invasion were all around, explosive devices buried beneath the earth could be triggered in the mountains that Qasimi played in as a child. He was no stranger to terrorism.

“My father passed away during the Soviet [invasion],” Qasimi said solemnly. “We used to get a lot of indirect fire, like we [did in Bagram]. He got shrapnel in his head and died on the spot.”

Qasimi and his siblings were just children when they lost their father. He can’t even recall how old he was at the time, having lost his father at such a young age.

“It was hard because we weren’t able to work,” he said. “My mother took over and had to become both parent figures.”

Taliban insurgents would come to threaten villages in the country in later years. The terrorists would go to villages and force young boys into labor and if you were to refuse the villagers would be killed, Qasimi said. The danger gave him and his family little choice, they had to leave to save themselves.

Approximately 35 kilometers east of Wardak lies the capital of Afghanistan where Qasimi would begin his journey to the United States. It began with a job offering as a teacher.

“A friend referred me to people from the [United] States, Australia and Germany to teach them my language,” Qasimi said, his slightly accented English an indicator of his heritage. “I made them a deal that if I was to teach them Dari that they would teach me English.”

He then learned English and German from these individuals, but he didn’t stop there. With his penchant for language, Qasimi learned Persian, Tajik, dialects of Dari, standard Arabic from school as well as Urdu, Punjabi, and Hindi from movies. His talent enabled him to acquire a job as a linguist as a local national contractor for the U.S. Army. 

“I made up my mind that if, one day, I’d made it to the U.S. I would join the Army,” he said.

Through his connections as a contractor, Qasimi came to America in 2014. He was 29 when he began a new life in the U.S. 

“I stayed my first night in the States in a homeless shelter,” Qasimi said, chuckling at the memory. “My sponsor, who had to pick me up at the airport, fell asleep. I didn’t have a number, I had nothing so the police took me to a homeless shelter.”

Despite this initial setback, Qasimi’s new life didn’t slow down. Once he was settled in to lodging provided through the International Organization for Migration, he started working to rebuild his life in his new home.

Qasimi said it was difficult to start from scratch, working part-time at a restaurant while also going to school to get his G.E.D.

“I was confident that the opportunities were there,” he said. “I just needed to put my nose to the grindstone,” he said.

Qasimi decided he needed a change to help his financial situation and, in 2015, just one year after arriving in America, he joined the Army as a motor transport operator with the 396th Composite Truck Co., 87th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd IDSB.  

After being in the U.S. for only three years, Qasimi volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan. He hoped to be doing something similar to what he did as a local national, he said, going on patrols rather than sitting back in the rear.

In 2017, the 3rd IDSB deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Qasimi was back in his home country, standing sentry at the U.S. Forces - Afghanistan compound as a member of the brigade’s force protection platoon.

Along with his job as force protection, Qasimi utilized his linguistic skills by working with the brigade’s legal office. 

“I helped the legal office when they ran claims missions as a permanent part of their team by acting as a translator,” Qasimi said. “I was more comfortable with this, it’s what I was expecting to be doing when I joined the Army.”

Now that he was back in his native country, the possibility of Qasimi being able to see his family again was tantalizingly close. His mother and one of his brothers still lived in Afghanistan, only a couple of hours away from Bagram Airfield. But unlike in the U.S., a simple family visit was out of the question.

“My family can’t come [to Bagram] because that would make them a target for the enemies,” Qasimi said, a hint of frustration in his voice betraying his stoic demeanor. “So I still considered myself away from my family.”

Family is a large part of his culture, Qasimi said. Despite the physical distance of living in the U.S. and now the forced distance due to threat, Qasimi’s connection with his family remains a huge part of his inspiration. He encouraged his fellow security platoon members with that thought in mind. 

“I tell Soldiers to keep doing what they’re doing and they will go back to their families,” he said. “If I was able to see my family here again it would be a dream come true.”

Despite his journey from home to the far reaches of the globe, Qasimi’s heart is still with his family. His cultural and historical ties to the land stay with him in America and still are a large part of his life on his deployment.

The brigade returned from the tour on July 3, and Qasimi once again left his country of origin. He returned to his new home and the family he created for himself in the U.S.

“I am from Afghanistan, but when the plane landed it was a different feeling,” Qasimi said. “Like they say ‘home is where your heart is.’ My son and my wife were here, so coming back [to the States] gave me the feeling of coming back home.”

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