CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- The Hollywood, Fla., native learned basic Arabic through a survival language course offered by the military.
Lance Cpl. Juan M. Flores, was selected from the Marines of Weapons Company, 3d Battalion, 8th Marines to learn the basics of this complicated language to help his fellow Marines communicate with the citizens of Iraq.
“They taught us the phonetics and how to properly pronounce the words and phrases,” the 2003 South Broward High School graduate explained.
Flores has taken his Arabic education one step farther since arriving here. He has began using the books from his class to learn more of the basic language and begin taking steps toward understanding the dialect of the local people in the battalion’s area of operation.
“We learned the basics for asking questions and knowing how to properly say the words, which has helped me in picking up on the dialect here,” Flores said.
Flores also found other resources to learn from such as the unit’s translator who patrols with them. He began asking him questions and learned new words and how to pronounce some words he knew in the local dialect.
Unfortunately, Flores’ access to the translator was limited to about three times a month due to operational needs.
This didn’t deter Flores from improving his skills. Instead, he began writing lists of the words and phrases, practicing them on a regular basis. He also used what he learned to talk with locals when he and his fellow Marines conducted vehicle checkpoints or searched homes.
“At first it was hard to understand and speak to them, but as I use it more it became second nature like muscle memory,” Flores explained.
His knowledge of the language proved to be a valuable asset to his platoon out on the streets.
Flores’ job was to collect up all the family members in the house and explain what the Marines were doing. He also talks to Iraqis at checkpoints asking questions and interpreting their responses.
“It has always been helpful on vehicle checkpoints and when we are out searching homes or businesses,” Flores said. “It has made our job a little easier knowing their language.”
Flores hasn’t limited his time to self-education, he took the initiative, working with his fellow Marines teaching them what he learned.
“His (Flores) Arabic is an asset for our mission’s success,” explained Lance Cpl. William M. Kittell, a machine gunner with Weapons Company, and Syracuse, N.Y., native. “He took a lot of time to break things down for us so we could better learn the Arabic language.”
According to Flores, the Marines learned quickly with his help writing out and teaching them the phonetics just as he was taught.
This drive and determination for self-improvement, improvement of others and the well being of the unit make the Marines’ operations run much smoother in the streets of Iraq. Marines like Flores set the Corps up for success.
“His efforts have made an enormous impact on not only operational progress, but with our progress connecting with the local people,” Capt Ed Nevgloski, Weapons Company Commander explained. -30-