Face of Defense: Army Interpreter Links Cultures With Language
By Army Staff Sgt. Jessika Malott
Special to American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Dec. 30, 2008 A deployed soldier is helping to bridge the gap between two cultures by serving as an interpreter in Iraq.
Army Spc. Mohamed Dawoud, an interpreter/translator with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 8th Military Police Brigade, interprets information for a U.S. and Iraqi soldier. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Army Spc. Mohamed Dawoud, interpreter/translator with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 8th Military Police Brigade, said he was led into his career path by his love for country and by a television show.
“I was watching television, and this lady was crying because she lost her son,” the New Jersey native said. “Her son died because he did not understand the cultures and customs here. I want to inform everyone about what they can and cannot do here to keep themselves safe.”
Each morning, Dawoud searches the Internet and watches Arabic TV news outlets to stay informed about what is going on within his area of operations. He uses the information to brief his team about current events and to provide situational awareness.
“When we go on mission, I am prepared, so in the event we need to stop, I can get out of the vehicle and talk to people to find out what the situation may be,” he said. “I carry a loudspeaker so that if I need to talk to a large group of people I can do that.”
Dawoud also translates for squad members as they move to various destinations. If he notices new signs or graffiti, he translates them so his team members are aware of possible danger ahead. After arrival, Dawoud either assists his squad members with their objectives or translates for brigade leadership during meetings.
“I have to walk a fine line and pay attention to not only the words spoken, but also to the body language and gestures that are made,” he said. “If I don’t, I am not doing a good job, and the true meaning of what is being said will be lost.”
Dawoud also conducts cultural briefings. “Everyone needs to know everything about the Iraqi people and how the Iraqi government works,” he said. “For example, when you see a female, what and how are you going to say an Arabic word that will respectfully assure them, to not offend them?”
Dawoud also is available to translate documents for other sections of the brigade.
“In my opinion, I believe that we could not do our mission without interpreters like Dawoud,” Army Master Sgt. Mike “Top” Barnes, police transition team noncommissioned officer in charge and a native of Elmira, N.Y., said. “With our mission, we rely heavily on [interpreters] for translation of documents as well as for our conversations with the Iraqi police officials. Their expertise allows us to carry out our brigade commander’s intent and vision without losing anything in translation.”
Dawoud has extended his tour with the brigade to provide continuity between both of the command teams.
“I’m proud of what I do,” he said. “It doesn’t matter when I go home, because my family and friends are proud of me. I feel like I’m accomplished, and I am very happy in my job.”
(Army Staff Sgt. Jessika Malott serves in the 8th Military Police Brigade public affairs office.)