Photo Information

Ali Hassan Mohammed (middle), interpreter with 6th Civil Affairs Group in Husbayah, Iraq, listens intently to interpret the words of an elementary school principal for Lt. Col. Robert Glover. Glover is director of the Civil-Military Operations Center for the Al-Qaim region. The CMOC's mission is to facilitate reconstruction in western Iraq.

Photo by Sgt. Stephen M. DeBoard

Interpreters open path of communication in Iraq

11 Jan 2006 | Sgt. Stephen M. DeBoard

Meet Mike. Mike is your average 25-year-old still in search of a future. He’s struck out from home, living away from his parents, making pretty decent money. But he’s still looking for a career and a life.

Mike is an Arabic interpreter working for the multi-national coalition in Iraq. Interpreters like Mike are a vital human asset in both the fight against the insurgency as well as the reconstruction efforts going on concurrently in Iraq.

“They save a lot of time because you’re not trying to communicate through hand and arm signals, and they bring a lot of clarity to a situation,” said Staff Sgt. Patrick Hart, 30, platoon sergeant, 2nd Platoon, Company L, 3rd Battalion, 6thth Marine Regiment. “Mike’s one of the better ones I’ve seen over here.”

The American company, Titan Corp., hired Mike out of his hometown of Baghdad and assigned him to work with 6th Civil Affairs Group, a unit composed mainly of Marine reservists based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. He provides translation for the CAG’s Al Qaim regional Civil-Military Operations Center.

“I’ve been working as an interpreter for about one year,” said Mike. “I had to take a 100-question test covering stuff like comprehension, vocabulary and some fill-in-the-blanks.”

There are thousands of Arabic interpreters in Iraq, according to the Titan Corp. website. Mike is one of many who wear the Marine digital pattern camouflage utility uniform, minus nametapes. They are also afforded body armor and Kevlar helmets, which are required to go out on patrols with the unit they are translating for.

Mike accompanies Al Qaim regional CMOC staff to meetings with district officials to iron out details such as rubble collection, establishment or reconstitution of local fire departments and ensuring water supplies are servicing local neighborhoods. He also assists the CMOC in other ways.

“I’ve got books and cards so patients can point,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Tom Britt, detachment corpsman, 6th Civil Affairs Group, “but with an interpreter I can find out exactly what’s wrong and the full depth of what’s wrong, more than just pointing and waving.”

Like many interpreters, Mike has hopes of one day coming to the United States. He has served with distinction and made a favorable impression on those with whom he worked.

“Mike is absolutely one of the best interpreters I’ve seen,” said Britt, echoing the sentiment of many in 6th CAG.

But for now, dreams of coming to America must wait, like so many immigrants the world over before him, for there is a job to do.

“I love helping the Marines. I cheered when they came into Baghdad and will do anything to help them now,” said Mike.