In honor of May Military Appreciation Month, current and former servicemen and women from Edgewood Chemical Biologial Center as well as family members were asked to share their memories. Our second post features Sofi Ibrahim, research microbiologist.
Even as a child, I knew I wanted to be an Army Officer. The opportunity to join the U.S. Army came in 1992 while I was at Johns Hopkins University pursuing post-doctoral research. While in graduate school, I was fortunate to meet many Army Officers, some of whom were guest lecturers in classes that I took, others were students in classes that I taught, or classmates pursuing their doctoral degree. They all inspired me, and reinforced my interest in intertwining classroom courses with applied research and real life disciplines – vaccine development, therapeutics, diagnostics and preventive medicine. So, I was thrilled and honored when one of my friends from graduate school “recruited” me to join the Army. The only challenge, if any, in taking that decision, was the fact that being in academia for many years, I was not quite sure how to prepare for the rigorous physical training. I was able to adapt within a few weeks of basic training though; in fact I greatly enjoyed it.
One of the most significant events during my service was when my Commander asked me to prepare for deployment to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in 1994 to serve with a team of Army scientists, engineers and physicians in Operation Vigilant Warrior. My primary role was to assess molecular diagnostic technology to detect biological threat agents in Theater. This was a prelude to introducing new diagnostic technology into Theater Army Medical Laboratory and Military Preventive Medicine units. Under the exemplary leadership of my unit Commander and the support of my team, we successfully demonstrated, for the first time, that Polymerase Chain Reaction detection of infectious disease agents could be performed in Theater. This assignment has shaped my research and personal experience profoundly. It materialized in me the premise that a Soldier’s selfless service to God and County is the highest honor.
From a research perspective, this experience inspired me to seek ways and means to enhance mobility and deplorability of medical diagnostic assets by reducing logistical burden with instrument miniaturization, reagent stabilization and operational simplicity. Among the most valuable lessons I learned while in service: always be proactive in seeking knowledge and information.
The traits that every serviceman and woman need in order to adapt to military culture and to succeed are loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. These are the precepts of the Army heritage which embody the Army values.
Dr. Sofi Ibrahim was born in Cairo, Egypt where he obtained his Bachelor and Master degrees in Bioscience. He earned his doctoral and postdoctoral degrees from Johns Hopkins University. He served as active duty Preventive Medicine Officer from 1992-1996 and continues to serve in the U.S. Army Reserve at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He joined ECBC in 2010 as Research Microbiologist after 17 years service at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, Fort Detrick, MD. He is also adjunct faculty at Johns Hopkins University School of Arts and Sciences.