|RAHMATULLAH OMID'S life would never be the same from the moment he set foot on the cold tarmac of Kabul international airport on April 27, 1978. "It is one of the worst memories in my life," said Omid, with a half-smile, reflecting upon his return trip to Afghanistan from his studies at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif.|
"The plane landed at 10:45 and by 12:00 the coup was taking place all over the streets." For the western-educated young Afghan officer who, at various times, had spent three years studying in the United States, the successful coup orchestrated against democratically-oriented President Mohammad Daoud, would lead to an isolated and dangerous career in the military.
"I became colonel, but they never trusted me because of my U.S. education. They followed me wherever I went and spied on me. It was like having the KGB follow you everywhere, and they wouldn't let me go," explained Omid.
Omid worked as a protocol officer for the Ministry of Defense where his excellent English skills came in handy. "They never had a replacement for me, so I stayed there, but I was not allowed to apply for retirement," Omid said, explaining that within the Afghan army, officers were not allowed to apply for retirement before completing 25 years of mandatory service.
Eventually, after living through 10 years of war under the Soviet occupation and simultaneous Mujahideen fighting, and upon completing almost 26 years of military service, Omid became eligible for retirement. In 1989, Omid retired and immediately began to plan a way to get his family members out of the country without getting killed in the process.
"I decided to become a businessman and applied for a business license and passport with which I could travel," said Omid. Because the end-of-year school vacation falls in the winter-time, and his wife was a kindergarten teacher, taking her and his three underage children to India during school break did not look suspicious.
"As soon as we arrived, I went to the American Embassy to apply for asylum. And the funny thing was that I actually knew the air attaché there from several years earlier when he was working as an assistant air attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul," explained Omid.
In 2002, Omid learned of DLIFLC's need for Dari teachers and applied. One of his first projects was to translate the Army Field Manual 7-8 and Ranger Handbook for the Afghan National Army.
"By 2003, I was assigned to write the much-needed curriculum for the Dari basic course. I still do this work today, along with teaching in the classroom," said Omid. "I love Monterey, it is not only beautiful, but safe."