AL ANBAR, Iraq -- When asked about the biggest challenge of operating in a foreign country such as Iraq, many service members will say it is the language barrier that causes the most frustration.
To combat this challenge, Arabic speakers are hired from across the world to be a vital connection between the people of Iraq and the Coalition Forces. Without them, little could be accomplished.
On a rare occasion, contracted interpreters are not necessary – not when you have Marines who can do the job. Such is the case with Lance Cpl. Brian Youssef, a Marine with the 6th Civil Affairs Group.
“He’s a unique kid,” said Master Sgt. Edward Cruz, Haditha Civil-Military Operations Center operations chief. “Since being in country he has done very well.”
Youssef has been performing the duties of a linguist in support of civil-military operations throughout Iraq’s Al Anbar province for the past four months. An infantry mortarman by trade, he came to the CAG with high expectations of the job he would be performing.
“I was excited when I learned what I would be doing,” said the 20-year-old New Jersey native. “It seemed like a good change of pace from the infantry.”
The only Marine in the CAG fluent in Arabic, Youssef learned the language from his Egyptian father. Although fluent in Arabic, barriers still existed because of the dialect differences requiring Youssef to quickly adjust in order to communicate clearly.
“He has done fantastically well with the language,” said Cruz. “No matter the dialect or area, Youssef has been able to adapt his skills. In one area, the people spoke with what would compare to a southern accent, and he had no problem picking it up.”
Youssef spent his entire deployment as a translator. He has assisted in interrogations, supported several patrols and translated at countless meetings in three separate locations of the province.
His job, he says, allows him to make a contribution and impact on the Al Anbar community that he finds very fulfilling.
“I enjoy it immensely. I get to have a closer relationship with the Iraqi people and city officials as well as my chain of command. It makes me feel like I can do more for the people through being able to help others help them.”