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Interpreters aid 3/3 in war on terrorism

Marine Corps News

Story Identification #: 20051355931
Story by Cpl. Rich Mattingly

KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (Jan. 2, 2005) -- The author Rollo May once said, “Communication leads to community, understanding and mutual valuing.”

In eastern Afghanistan, where mutual understanding and communication between vastly different cultures is the cornerstone of Operation Enduring Freedom, the Marines of 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, are making sure that they are able to bridge the lingual and cultural barriers between Afghans and Marines with a new breed of “warrior-interpreters.”

With skilled interpreters embedded with platoons they operate with, Marines have been able to not only increase the effectiveness of their work with the Afghan National Army, but have also dramatically expanded their ability to locate and close with the enemy in many areas where Afghans might otherwise be hesitant to cooperate with Marines for fear of repercussions from Anti-Coalition Forces.

Wadeer, an interpreter with Afghan Security Forces operating side-by-side with America’s Battalion, was just finishing his medical school studies when the Taliban took power six years ago.

“I was two weeks away from finding out the results of my final medical school exams when everything changed,” said the soft-spoken man who is now as comfortable wielding an AK-47 assault rifle as he is a stethoscope. Before he could find out the results of his tests, the Taliban had overthrown Jalalabad.

“The Taliban didn’t care about education,” said Wadeer, “I was thrown out of class by a Taliban-approved professor because I did not cut my hair a certain way,” continued the interpreter in disgust.

Wadeer is fluent in both English and Pashtu, the language of primarily used in 3rd Bn.’s area of responsibility. With two years of medical practice adding to his experience and ability to communicate, Wadeer brings a lot to the fight. With his and the other interpreters’ help, Marines are gaining more ground than ever on anti-coalition forces.

“They’re our lifeblood for communicating with local nationals and our Afghan Security Forces,” said 2nd Lt. Roy Bechtold, platoon commander with I Co. “They’ll fight with us to the death, and they’re extremely protective of the Marines,” said Bechtold.

Wadeer and his fellow interpreters are extremely loyal to the Marines they often find themselves fighting alongside.

“They are good people,” said Wadeer, breaking into an easy smile. “They treat us as equals, like we’re the same because we fight together.”

The general consensus in Afghanistan is that the presence of the Marines is a welcome change. The interpreters echo this sentiment, happy to share that they are happy to see the new peace and stability that has been a direct result of the Marine Corps’ involvement in Afghanistan.

“I think we as Afghans are all happier now,” explained Wadeer. “The most important thing is security. There used to be these local commanders and no one had freedom,” he continued, referring to tribal warlords who abused the land and its people, allowing terrorism to spread before the Coalition overthrew the Taliban.

“Now we live equal, now there is a chance for us to live free and have a free Afghanistan,” he added.

Wadeer plans on returning to the medical field one day, but for now, he feels his place is with the ASF and the Marines of 3rd Bn. fighting for his country. With its economy still recovering from the fallout of decades of internal strife, Wadeer can also earn more money for his family working with the Marines than he can practicing medicine in Kabul.

For Afghanistan to recover and completely remove the stigma that terrorists have brought to the war-torn country, the interpreter says that it is imperative that Americans keep faith in his people.

“I think it’s necessary for the Marines to stay here,” he shared. “The situation is still critical.”

Many Afghans share Wadeer’s view. With only about 20,000 Afghan National Army troops currently recruited out of the 70,000 the Afghan government says they hope to eventually have, Coalition Forces must still bear the brunt of security and stability operations in Afghanistan.

“The Marines help us to make our government more powerful so that we can take care of the terrorists ourselves,” said Wadeer.

With the help of Wadeer and the Afghan Security Forces as well as the entire Joint Task Force operating in Afghanistan, 3rd Bn. continues to fight to bring a brighter future to Afghanistan. With that democratic future, to include Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government conducting its parliamentary elections this spring, America will have less to fear from terrorists and a new nation will have a chance to come into its own.

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