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News | Aug. 17, 2021

A Soldier’s story: From Kenyan refugee camp to Vt. National Guard officer

By Joshua Cohen Vermont National Guard Public Affairs

For 2nd Lt. Abdimaik Hashi, newly commissioned in the Vermont National Guard, the road to commissioning as an officer began in 2016 when he enlisted in the Minnesota Army National Guard. As a 19K armor crewman, Hashi initially drove M1 main battle tanks with A Company, 1st Combined Arms Battalion-194th Armor Regiment.

Hashi was not always in the U.S. The first eight years of his life were spent in a refugee camp in Kenya with his mother and two older sisters. In 1992, strife and conflict forced Hashi’s mother to flee her home in Kismayo, Somalia with her daughters.

For over two months they walked from Somalia to Kenya, eventually landing in a refugee camp established by the United Nations. Born in the camp, Hashi and his family were moved to Kentucky by the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program when he was just 8 years old.

Hashi explained that, “at first being in U.S. was difficult, especially when you don’t know the language and lack a community that can support you.”

Eventually he would move with his family to Greeley, Colorado.

“I remember attending Greeley Central High School where I was learning to advance my English skills so far as reading, writing, and speaking abilities, it was not easy adapting to it all.”

After high school, Hashi said he offered to work at a local factory rather than pursuing college to help the family financially.

“I still haven’t gotten a response from my mother, just a laugh, when I was young she always said to me, ‘until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter.’”

Hashi’s family once again moved, this time to Minnesota where he attended college at St. Cloud State University, eventually signing up with the state’s National Guard.

Hashi admitted he had not planned on entering the service, “I never thought about the military as a career, in 2016 I was attending college, financially it was very difficult, I met a National Guard recruiter, Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Schneider, and after learning the guard had college tuition assistance programs I decided to join.”

Hashi attended basic and advanced training for armor crewman at Fort Benning, Georgia. Upon completion he returned to Minnesota and transferred to St. John's University.

“In Minnesota at the time they had the tuition assistance and because I completed basic and advanced training I qualified for state and federal education benefits.”

Hashi explained, “It was an ROTC scholarship that paid for my housing and tuition, it’s a very expensive private school and there was no way I could pay for it otherwise.”

Although continuing to drill with the Minnesota National Guard, Hashi’s status changed, “I spent three years as a tanker before I realized I wanted to go the officer route.”

Due to his ROTC scholarship, Hashi turned in his Pfc. rank for that of cadet with the Army ROTC Fighting Saints Battalion where his job transitioned from enlisted duties to one of “shadowing the company commander while learning how to run a platoon.”

On May 15, 2021, Hashi received his commission, Gen. Paul M. Nakasone swore in his class, an alumnus of St. John’s University and commander of the National Security Agency, US Cyber Command, and Chief of the Central Security Service.

Choosing to commission into the VTNG as a transportation officer, Hashi said, “two weeks after graduating I began my road trip to Vermont, I only visited the state twice previously, after that I didn’t see a reason to remain in Minnesota.”

Hashi is temporarily assisting the State Resilience Coordinator developing plans for holistic fitness programs in addition to supporting drug testing and substance abuse programs.

With orders to attend the Basic Officer Leadership Course next May at Fort Lee, Virginia, the U.S. Army’s logistical training center, Hashi said, “I’m very happy in logistics, I’m planning on staying in the career field.”

Until then, he will continue weekend drills with Task Force Patriot, a rear detachment. Hashi will join his his unit, G. Company 186th Brigade Support Battalion, 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain), when they return from an overseas deployment.

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