FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq — SPC Mikail Lawal is a petroleum specialist assigned to A Company, 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, who has seen a lot of the world.He left Nigeria in 1995 to play tennis at Sinclair Community College in Ohio and at Morehouse University in Atlanta. While at Morehouse, he won two National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics championships and earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
Lawal leads a small worship service for the FOB’s Muslims — Soldiers, security guards and contractors — every Friday. Lawal’s father, a village elder and religious leader, influenced the Soldier’s desire to serve. “It is very simple,” Lawal said. “You show people love. You don’t even have to say it. People just need to see that you care about them. You just need to be constant in your role. You cannot start off one way and change.”
As one of the five pillars of Islam, a pilgramage to Mecca is extremely important for any Muslim, Lawal said. Traveling with his mother and sister, he said the Hajj strengthened his faith.
“It is a feeling you can never explain,” he said. “You leave there changed. It was like being touched by a spirit. To go through that was simply phenomenal. It is that simple.”
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The pilgrimage was a gift from his father.
While his faith is his foundation, tennis is one of Lawal’s passions.
“I don’t compete as vigorously now that I’m in the Army, but it will always be one of my professions,” he said. Lawal has a tennis academy where he teaches — on the business card — “I teach because I care.” That spirit of service has led Lawal to pursue becoming an Army chaplain.
“There are a small number of Muslim chaplains,” Lawal said. “There are a lot of wrong misconceptions about the faith. It is a very noble faith. It requires a person to put everything in the hands of their creator. It requires total submission to the will of God. It is not what many people think.”