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Linguists Key to Success for Afghan Soldiers Training in U.S.

By Sgt. Kevin Stabinsky, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORT POLK, La., Nov. 2, 2006 – Afghan interpreters are crucial for the success of Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police forces training at the Joint Readiness Training Center here.

Hassan Wilson, a native Afghan who has been interpreting between American and Afghan forces for two years, said their role is vital. “What we do is very important,” he said.

Without proper translation, Wilson said, orders can be misinterpreted, which can cost lives and ruin missions the Afghan army conducts with coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Training for such missions would not be as effective without interpreters, Wilson said. “We help them (other Afghans) understand the concept (of being trained) so they don’t make mistakes,” he said.

Fellow Afghan interpreter Imram Mohamad Rasul agreed. “The (Afghan National Army is) getting good training here they’ve never done before, learning new stuff with the U.S. Army,” he said. “They like the different training, but can’t speak any English, so we try to do our best to help them learn.”

Learning as much as possible is vital for the troops to succeed against Taliban extremists, said Rasul, who has been interpreting for a year.

Just as the Afghan soldiers and police are dedicated to helping their countrymen, so are the interpreters. Wilson said another key part of their job is teaching Americans about Afghan culture and habits. While American soldiers are teaching the Afghans about weapons, equipment, tactics, techniques and procedures, interpreters help the Americans learn about Afghan culture and simple phrases in their language.

“We try to teach the American soldiers simple commands, like ‘stop,’ that can help them out while in Afghanistan,” Rasul said.

While they may not carry rifles, explosives or other combat gear, interpreters are integral to mission success in a war in which winning the support of the Afghan people is equally as important as defeating extremists in combat, Wilson said.

By helping their countrymen learn as much as they can while they train here, Wilson and Rasul said, they also are helping the Afghan people at home. “There is a need for us in Afghanistan,” Wilson said. “So we have to help out here.”

(Army Sgt. Kevin Stabinsky is assigned to the Joint Readiness Training Center Public Affairs Office.)

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