Face of Defense: Soldier’s Arabic Skills Pay Off
By Army 2nd Lt. Jack Pinney
Special to American Forces Press Service
FORWARD OPERATING BASE LOYALTY, Iraq, Jul. 8, 2008 Take a platoon of deployed U.S. soldiers and add 100 Iraqi National Police officers. Then mix in a mission to search 400 houses and temper it with just one interpreter. The dynamic challenges speak for themselves.
Army Pfc. Joshua Ingraham (center), a 19-year-old rifleman from Bradenton, Fla., prepares to enter a house with Iraqi National Police officers during a clearance mission in eastern Baghdad’s Hay Nassir district, June 20, 2008. Ingraham’s ability to speak Arabic is a great asset when working with Iraqi security forces. He is assigned to Multinational Division Baghdad with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. U.S. Army photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
But blend in one motivated American soldier familiar with the Arabic language, and everything comes out great.
Such was the case June 20, when Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division’s Company C, 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, aided Iraqi security forces during a clearance mission in Hay Nassir, a volatile district of eastern Baghdad.
During the mission, soldiers from the company’s 1st Platoon worked hand in hand with their Iraqi partners to search for illegal weapons and explosives. With only one interpreter available, Army Pfc. Joshua Ingraham’s experience serving side by side with Iraqi security forces proved invaluable.
Ingraham is a 19-year-old rifleman from Bradenton, Fla. For a short time, he was assigned to “Team ISF” a platoon of Company C soldiers dedicated to operating with Iraqi security forces partners, at Joint Security Station Beladiat.
“I went over to JSS Beladiat for about two months, where we could live next door to the national police,” Ingraham said.
He credits his understanding of the Arabic language to the extensive amount of time he spent with his Iraqi counterparts.
“We would go on missions with them at least twice a day,” he said. “We would eat chow with them, [and] we would watch movies with them. For some reason, they like romantic movies.”
During clearance missions, the platoon could not always have an interpreter available to explain every situation between the soldiers and policemen. Ingraham was able to use his understanding of Arabic to position the national policemen so the American soldiers could better assist them.
“It motivated them a little better,” Ingraham said. “They want to work with you more, because it’s not just some guy yelling at them and pointing in some foreign language.”
The company’s squad leaders have used Ingraham’s abilities to communicate on many different occasions during this deployment, said Army Sgt. Kevin Pack, a Knoxville, Tenn., native.
During the Hay Nassir mission, Pack said, he was searching a house with five national policemen when he sensed the occupants were concealing something.
“[In] one house, we were having trouble with getting a weapon, [and] Ingraham came over and helped me with the ISF partners to find the weapon and confiscate it,” Pack said.
Ingraham’s ability to communicate with Iraqi citizens and security forces is a key reason why his unit has had successful clearance operations, Pack said.
The Hay Nassir mission was not the first time Ingraham’s Arabic speaking ability has helped his unit. Army Staff Sgt. John Roeder, a noncommissioned officer from his unit who hails from Cottage Grove, Ore., cited another situation that allowed the squad to locate and maneuver on the enemy.
“We were taking contact and using Ingraham as [an interpreter],” Roeder said. “I was able to determine from the [national police] where the contact was coming from.”
(Army 2nd Lt. Jack Pinney serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 10th Mountain Division’s 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team.)