Herald/CATRINA RAWSON - Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Air Cavalry Brigade exit buses to board a plane as they deploy to Afghanistan Friday at Fort Hood.

By Amanda Kim Stairrett

Killeen Daily Herald

WEST FORT HOOD - Spc. Abdulhadi Azouz mulled the decision for a year.

He was a college student, a bank loan officer and a business owner, and he wanted to do something different. Something other than the daily grind in a suit and tie.

Azouz told the Army he wanted to be an Apache mechanic and the Army said OK. The 23-year-old enlisted and spent time in Korea before coming to Fort Hood in 2008.

Azouz departed Fort Hood on Friday with soldiers from the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, and 566th Area Support Medical Company, 1st Medical Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command. They are all headed for Afghanistan where the brigade will replace the 4th Infantry Division's 4th Combat Aviation Brigade and the company will provide levels I and II medical care.

The 1st Air Cavalry will send several groups of its soldiers to Afghanistan this week, wrapping up its departure from Fort Hood, said Col. John Novalis II, the brigade's commander.

He and the brigade's senior noncommissioned officer, Command Sgt. Maj. Glen Vela, also departed Friday.

After serving for years as an Apache mechanic, Azouz was selected as Vela's administrative assistant recently and although he'll miss repairing helicopters, he looks forward to the new challenge.

Azouz is used to working outside his military occupational specialty. His father is Saudi Arabian and his mother is from Del Rio. He was born in San Antonio, but spent the first 10 years of his life in Saudi Arabia before coming back to the United States. He is fluent in Arabic, Spanish and is working on Japanese.

During his first deployment to Iraq with the brigade's Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, he often led classes on Islamic culture. It gave soldiers who had questions they thought might be "taboo" a chance to ask someone they served alongside in a comfortable environment. A lot of people had misconceptions or wrong ideas about Islam, Azouz said, and he enjoyed talking with them.

Azouz also served as a translator while in Iraq.

He knew when enlisting that he would stand out because of his faith, and he was ready. Azouz hopes to facilitate even more understanding and education on Muslim culture during this deployment, he said.

It'll be a busy year for the ambitious Azouz.

Aside from his assigned job working with Vela, he also wants to work more with his beloved Apaches and plans to marry his fiancee, who also is half-Arabic and half-American, after returning from Afghanistan.

Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at astair@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7547. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary or www.facebook.com/astairrett.

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