Author James Sherman once wrote, “You can’t go back and make a new start, but you can start right now and make a brand-new ending.”

For Mohammed Maaroof, an Iraqi native and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Expeditionary District electrical engineer, growing up in Baghdad would not define how his life would turn out or end.

“My life started to change when the U.S. forces showed up in Iraq in 2003,” Maaroof said. “I began working as a locally contracted interpreter, initially with the Marines. When the Marines moved north, I worked with a U.S. Army public affairs unit, helping with local media and translations.”

For six years, Maaroof would work for defense contractors that supported U.S. forces in Iraq. He was either inside the fortified green zone in Baghdad, at the airfield at Taji, or supporting convoys to outlying forward operating bases as an interpreter, translator, or working logistical support as a purchase agent.

Having received a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering in 1998 from Baghdad’s University of Technology, Maaroof always looked for jobs more suited to his specialty.

“From 2009-2012, I worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) as a local contractor project engineer and quality assurance inspector at Taji (Al-Taji airfield),” Maaroof said. “I really enjoyed my time with USACE.”

It was Maaroof’s service with U.S. forces and that engineering assignment with the Corps of Engineers that would shape and influence his future path in life.

Maaroof was also trying to remove his family from a potentially dangerous situation in Iraq as more and more people in his community knew he was working for the U.S. forces, traveling in and out of the green zone and moving between bases to check on projects. Many felt he might be spying on them.