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'Little Beige Book' Aids Communication in Iraq

By Staff Sgt. Ward Gros, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

NEAR AN NASIRYAH, Iraq, Aug. 28, 2003 – Because he finds it difficult to communicate with the Iraqis, Army Command Sgt. Maj. Bob Szakal holds on to a little beige book a friend from civil affairs gave him.

The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center's "Iraqi Basic Language Survival Guide" is indispensable for talking with the local people, said Szakal, who is assigned to the 171st Area Support Group based in southern Iraq.

Szakal and the 171st sponsor a community relations project helping to rebuild three Iraqi orphanages - one for boys, one for girls, and another for babies - in the town of An Nasiryah. He works closely with the director of all three orphanages.

"She speaks a little English, and my Arabic is awful, but this little book helps out a lot," Szakal said. "I get an idea of what she's asking, and with the book I can figure things out."

Szakal's unit recently donated milk that can be stored at room temperature to the infant orphanage. When the director asked him if the milk would stay good even in the 140-degree heat, the book helped him to tell her the long-life dairy milk would last for six months, as long as it was unopened.

"She kept saying the word 'hamedh,' which means milk in Arabic, and I found that in the book," Szakal said. (Staff Sgt. Ward Gros is assigned to the 143rd Transportation Command in southern Iraq.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA small, beige book produced by the Defense Language Institute's Foreign Language Center at the Presidio of Monterey, Calif., helps Army Command Sgt. Maj. Bob Szakal communicate with local people in southern Iraq. Szakal's unit, the 171st Area Support Group, sponsors three orphanages in the town of An Nasiryah. Photo by Staff Sgt. Ward Gros, USA.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Command Sgt. Maj. Bob Szakal, assigned to the 171st Area Support Group in southern Iraq, refers to the "Basic Iraqi Language Survival Guide" in a conversation with local Iraqi officials. The book, produced by the Defense Language Institute's Foreign Language Center at the Presidio of Monterey, Calif., has proven invaluable as Szakal and members of his unit try to help the Iraqi people near their base. Photo by Staff Sgt. Ward Gros, USA.  
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