From immigrant to Citizen-Soldier:
A commander’s uncommon journey
Story by Sgt. Christine Lorenz, 196th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
NORWALK, Ohio (01/11/20)
Although the path of his military career might appear typical, the start of Capt. Sulaiman Bah’s journey with the Ohio Army National Guard was certainly unique.
A native of Sierra Leone in western Africa, Bah originally came to the U.S. in August 2002 on a scholarship to finish his master’s degree. With a favorable impression of the United States and U.S. military from witnessing humanitarian missions in his native country, Bah pursued becoming a U.S. citizen and joined the Ohio Army National Guard in 2010.
“There was a civil war in Sierra Leone back in the 1990s, so my experience of seeing the U.S. military evacuating the U.S. citizens and the U.S. embassy made an impression on me,” Bah said.
Bah also spoke of a professor he had in Sierra Leone who used a lot of engineering reference materials. The sum of these experiences led him to join the National Guard and commission into the Army Engineer Branch in 2011. He was deployed to Afghanistan in 2016-17.
Bah recently finished his assignment as commander of the 945th Engineer Company, a unit he had led for the past 2½ years. During a change of command ceremony in January at the Norwalk Armory, Bah passed the responsibility of leadership to Capt. Jill Hoffman, the first female to command the unit in its nearly 150-year history and a former platoon leader under Bah. His next assignment is with the 16th Engineer Brigade headquarters’ compliance office as a plans officer. Bah said his time in command of the 945th was among the highest points of his military career to date.
“During annual training, you get to be in the field with the Soldiers,” Bah said. “Sleep out there, get down and dirty and walk with them. Always trying to come up with solutions every day is probably the thing I enjoyed most about being a commander. As any commander will tell you, there’s always challenges. I will say the thing I will miss is the daily interaction of Soldiers, coming up with solutions and working together as a team to satisfy objectives.”
In addition to his military position, Bah currently works in the engineering field in the civilian sector as a facilities engineer for the Ohio Department of Transportation. Bah said his background in engineering made it very natural for him to choose the engineer branch of the Ohio Army National Guard.
Although he is moving on, Bah said he is confident that he is leaving the 945th in good hands, and is hopeful for both the 945th and his own military career.
“I’m looking forward to my next chapter,” Bah said. “Hopefully the next 10 years will be very challenging, interesting and rewarding for me because, so far, the last 10 years I’ve really enjoyed my time in the Army National Guard. I hope to make a difference going forward. I’m looking forward to the next 10 years.”