Military Matters: Salsa, Iraqi Style
U.S. Army Spec. Mustafa "Tom" Al-Ibraheem says he knew from a young age that he wanted out of Iraq.
When the Baghdad native came to America in 2009, he says it almost felt like coming home.
"The only thing was new was Walmart,' he said. "That was a very interesting story."
Another interesting story is how Tom came to be teaching Latin dance every Thursday night at the USO Fort Drum.
That story starts back in Iraq when he was working as a translator for the U.S. Marines during the first few years of the war.
"And they always talk about it, 'oh salsa,' and I thought they were talking about food."
But the first time he tried it, in a class at a U.S. contingency operating base in southern Iraq, Tom was hooked.
And after just three classes there to pick up the basics, he found himself teaching it.
It turns out Tom was a natural.
"I studied, in my mind, salsa, the beats and I don't speak Spanish, but I love it, it's like in my blood," he said.
And he's a very quick study.
"It takes me to watch people for only 10 minutes to pick up any move."
When Tom's services as an Iraqi translator earned him a visa to pick up and move to the United States, he knew what he wanted to do when he got here.
"The first thing I told my colonel is 'I'm going to join the army.' He said 'you're crazy.' I was like, 'yeah but I'm crazy enough to do it.'"
What's really crazy, he says, is that there was no salsa night here at his first duty station.
That changed only recently when he volunteered through the USO to start one up himself.
And so far, so good.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013, Watertown, NY
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