McConnell Melting Pot: From Qatar to Kansas

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Christopher Thornbury
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. – Chasing the American dream, a family from Doha, Qatar left their country. A son from that family has been proudly serving in the U.S. Air Force.

As a child, Master Sgt. Mohammed Abouhasem, 22nd Maintenance Squadron production, and his family traveled and enjoyed their time in the Middle East, but his father wanted something to call his own.

Abouhasem’s father was born in Palestine and wanted to run his own business, but in Qatar, only natural-born citizens can own more than 50 percent of a business.

At 10 years old, Abouhasem and his family moved to Chicago. They became U.S. citizens, his father opened his first store and he began fourth grade.

He had no prior experience with the English language and had to learn quickly to catch up to his peers. Unlike the people of Qatar, Americans form groups with people like them, which was very puzzling to him at the time, he said.

“It was a culture shock, everything was different,” he said. “How kids interact together was different, and I didn’t know what cliques were. [In Qatar,] there weren’t a lot of differences in people, so when I came here I was just confused about who to hang out with and who to talk to. I became friendly with everyone because I didn’t know any better.”

A few years later, while in high school he took vocational courses where he learned how to work on cars and satisfy his passion.

“I’ve always liked tinkering with things, even when I was a kid,” he said smiling. “I took apart everything. I took apart the VCRs and sometimes I wouldn’t put it back together because I didn’t know how, which really made my family mad. I like working mechanically, and I like using tools. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.”

Just as he became accustomed to the social networks, he graduated high school and continued his education in college. Even though his father could support him financially now that he owned several jewelry stores and gas stations, Abouhasem wanted to pay for his college expense. He worked two jobs, one as an auto mechanic.

The bills were piling quickly, and when a friend from school enlisted in the Air Force, it influenced him to join.

“When I first joined, it was just for education and traveling,” he said. “It took me awhile to realize that I was a part of something that was more family oriented than the civilian side. It’s more about the people than the organization. If you stay in long enough you begin to see how everything seems to work together. You can’t go a day without people taking care of people.”

Next month, Abouhasem will have been stationed at McConnell for 15 years. When he first enlisted, he was still facing language barriers and was very soft spoken. Now, “the military brought out a whole different side of me,” he added.

He came in as a hydraulics technician and has held various jobs since. He is currently a production supervisor whose office is a truck that he drives across the flightline, which makes it easier to complete his daily tasks. He makes sure all maintenance duties are performed, contacts shops and people to fix aircraft to achieve the mission.

Abouhasem was recently accepted as a first sergeant where he will transition from fixing planes to taking care of people.

“I feel like I am a part of something here,” said Abouhasem.