Ironton, Ohio, native manages units interpreters

3 Feb 2006 | Pfc. Christopher J. Ohmen

Being able to communicate with the local populous is an important part of every mission the Marines of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment conduct in their area of operations. In order to do this, the unit works with local Iraqi interpreters.

Sergeant Dustin L. Barrow, an Ironton, Ohio, native, is the enlisted interpreter liaison for the battalion.  He ensures the translators are satisfied with what they have, while also ensuring they are doing their jobs to support the operations the companies carry out.

“This is the first time I have dealt with interpreters in my 10 years in the Marine Corps,” the 1992 Ironton High School graduate stated.  “It has been an enlightening experience.”

As the Marines of the battalion interact with local Iraqis in their AO, it is essential for them to clearly communicate their intentions and find out what the locals need to further help them down the road to a democratic Iraq.

The first step in the process of getting new interpreters assigned to the battalion is screening by II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group to see if an interested Iraqi is qualified.  The individual must have a firm grasp of the English language in order to even be considered.  They must also have no past or present affiliation with any insurgents or participated in any insurgent activities.

Once II MHG clears the local Iraqi, then Titan Corporation, a federal government contractor, is allowed to hire the new translator.  Titan pays their salary and coordinates some of their travel arrangements.

Taking a trip to meet them for the first time, Barrow starts the process of getting to know the battalion’s new interpreters.  After assisting them with all the in-processing to issue protective gear and receive a Camp Fallujah badge, Barrow brings them back to the battalion to meet the unit leaders for which they will be working.

“I took a [four-week] Arabic language class back at Camp Lejeune (N.C.) that helps me to communicate with the Iraqi nationals,” Barrow stated.  “I have heard a lot of stories from the interpreters about family stuff as well as what they did before the coalition forces arrived in Iraq.  This helps me in being able to place the interpreters with the right company within the battalion.”

The battalion currently has eight local interpreters dispersed among the companies.  These translators are considered “Category One” or “CAT 1”, meaning that they are local Iraqi citizens who have applied for and been accepted to be paid translators.

The battalion also has one Iraqi American working as an independently paid translator.  This “CAT II” is a U.S. citizen with a security clearance.  He is specifically assigned to the battalion’s commanding officer to serve as an interpreter between the commander and local Iraqi leaders. 

Once Barrow has coordinated the assignment of the interpreter to the battalion and assigned him his gear, Barrow’s responsibilities with all the interpreters continue.  Each month Barrow takes time sheets to each of them in order to pay them for the previous month’s work.  Sometimes a company will bring their interpreters to the Combat Operations Center to be paid or to take care of any administrative or welfare matters.  Other times, Barrow is required to go “outside the wire” on a convoy in order to accomplish these tasks.

This is an additional duty assigned to Barrow, a battalion administrator who works in the administration section. 

“The translators provide an invaluable resource for the Marines in the battalion to help bridge the language barrier,” Borrow said.  “When the translators help the Marines they are also helping Iraq get closer to their goal of an independent country for all Iraqis.”