THIES, Senegal, July 14, 2014 —
After joining the U.S. Army two years ago, Spc. Lassana Traore, a food service specialist with 1st Infantry Division’s 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, couldn’t have imagined he would find himself back in his native land of Senegal as an Army translator for Exercise Western Accord 14.
Staff Sgt. Murquitte Wingfield, food service noncommissioned officer in charge, Company E, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, said Traore’s a “super soldier” who is always motivated to do more than what is asked or expected of him.
"It is a great learning experience for him to be serving his native country and the U.S. Army," Wingfield said. "I think he will gain a lot of knowledge from interacting with both nations simultaneously during the exercise."
Traore grew-up in Pikine, a small city outside of Dakar, Senegal, with his parents, four brothers and three sisters. He graduated from Seydou Nourou Tall, a multigrade school, in 2000. Following an injury to his leg that stopped him from playing professional soccer, Traore said, he decided to travel to France to attend college and study business management.
He later traveled to Italy to help in running his father's fishing company, and it was there where he met his wife, who also serves in the Army.
Traore joined the Army in 2012, and chose to be a cook because choices were limited for him at the time.
“I actually enjoy doing my job," he added. "And now, I am happy to be here, because I can serve both my countries at the same time."
Traore's duties during the exercise were limited at first to the food service team. But things quickly changed when his unit hit the ground in Senegal. In addition to working in the dining facility, he soon was translating for various African nations throughout Camp Thies.
The 32-year-old said helping soldiers to overcome language barriers has been one of his favorite parts of Western Accord 14 was. Knowing he helped soldiers better comprehend the training they received so they could apply it to what they already knew was what he enjoyed most about the experience, he added.
Infantry parachutist Sgt. Birame Faye of the Senegalese army concurred.
"It is easier for us to understand Traore, rather than civilian translators, because he is in the U.S. Army and he knows how to explain their tactics better," Faye said.
Traore said he has appreciated playing a major role in the exercise and wants to continue serving in any way he can.
"I plan to retire out of the U.S. Army, because it's a great organization and it provides people with great opportunities to do whatever they put their minds to," he said.