Linguist provides line of communication between 3/25, Iraqi citizens

3 Jun 2005 | Cpl. Ken Melton

A young girl approaches a Marine on patrol crying out in a language he does not understand. He can do nothing to help this child because he does not know how to speak the girl’s language, but he knows who can. Lance Cpl. Mohad Belahoussine, a linguist with 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, helps break the language barrier between the local populace along the Euphrates River where the Marines of 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment are battling insurgents. “I make the Marines job easier by explaining to the people that we are here to help, not harm,” Belahoussine said. “The people are at ease because I understand them and the Marines are at ease because I’m one of them.” Belahoussine spent his early childhood in Marakesh, Morocco, a place he describes as a beautiful, family-like city that’s rich in tradition. He moved with his family to Alexandria, Va., when he was 11 and he was often frustrated by limited ability to speak English, but despite the language barrier he faced, he learned quickly and understood that even in America he would have tough choices to make about his future. “I spent most of my teenage years growing up in a bad neighborhood and saw myself facing two options: make money on the street or find some way to become a productive citizen,” said the 1999 West Potomac High School graduate. “The first option was easier, but I promised my mom I would get an education and never go to jail. “My friend’s dad was a Marine and he would always tell me about his experiences. So I decided to join the Marine Corps.” He joined the delayed entry program when he was 17 and graduated from recruit training the next year. Assigned as an artillery Marine he was ordered to Camp Pendleton, where his ability to speak another language very quickly led him to a deployment. “I speak modern standard Arabic and formal Arabic,” Belahoussine said. “I took a two week class to learn the Iraqi dialect which was like a refresher course on my Arabic skills.” Belahoussine’s job as a linguist is vital to the 3/25’s mission here as he often quells fears of some Iraqi people who view the Marines as a threat. “Sometimes the Marines may need to search a house,” Belahoussine said. “Some of the owners may misunderstand the Marines’ intent and this could give them a negative outlook about us. That’s where I come in and explain to the owner that we mean no harm.” “I understand what it’s like to not understand someone even though you desperately try to. I wish someone like myself was around when I was growing up.” Belahoussine, who is a Muslim, also helps his fellow Marines understand the culture and religious beliefs in Iraq so they will not interpret some of the people’s sayings or actions as threats. “Most Marines are interested in learning about the people of Iraq and they feel more comfortable talking to me because they know me,” said Belahoussine. “They often want to show the Iraqi people that they are not here as enemies, but rather as their friends trying to learn more about them so they can help them.” Even though there are civilian interpreters who also support the battalion’s mission, Belahoussine is constantly on the move. “This job can be tiring at times, but I know that I am making a difference in the War on Terror,” said Belahoussine. “I feel I’m doing the best I can but there’s always room for improvement.”