Ill-prepared translators struggle in Afghanistan

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by Skynet, Jul 22, 2009.

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  1. Ill-prepared translators struggle in Afghanistan

    Problem begins with companies that recruit the linguists, U.S. troops say
    updated 5:54 p.m. ET July 22, 2009
    NAWA, Afghanistan - Josh Habib lay in a dirt field, gasping for air. Two days of hiking with Marines through southern Afghanistan's 115-degree (46-Celsius) heat had exhausted him. This was not what he signed up for.

    Habib is not a Marine. He is a 53-year-old engineer from California hired by a contracting company as a military translator. When he applied for the lucrative linguist job, Habib said his recruiter gave no hint he would join a ground assault in Taliban land. He carried 40 pounds (18 kilograms) of food, water and gear on his back, and kept pace — barely — with Marines half his age.

    U.S. troops say companies that recruit military translators are sending linguists to southern Afghanistan who are unprepared to serve in combat, even as hundreds more are needed to support the growing number of troops.

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    Some translators are in their 60s and 70s and in poor physical condition — and some don't even speak the right language.

    "I've met guys off the planes and have immediately sent them back because they weren't in the proper physical shape," said Gunnery Sgt. James Spangler, who is in charge of linguists at Camp Leatherneck, the largest U.S. base in Helmand province.

    "They were too old. They couldn't breathe. They complained about heart problems," he said. "We almost made a joke of it. We're almost receiving people on oxygen tanks and colostomy bags; it's almost getting to that point.
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  2. More military patrol terps needed?

    Probably cheaper in the long run.
  3. Hey, I bet they meet the essential US Army requirement for a linguist - they're not gay.
  4. Long course in Pashtu is 18 months at Beaconsfield. Job Jobbed. Not like we'll be out of there by that point.
  5. Difficulty in employing locals?
  6. Security issues? Though not normally a problem with patrol interpreters.
  7. well knowing you'll be left behind when your 'employers' fu*k off leaving you to face the music of your 'bros' is perhaps a disincentive...
  8. If you cannot find any locals who are loyal to the regime you are trying to prop up and can be trusted to keep their mouths shut ... then it's a big hint that your "hearts and minds" campaign is going to be sub-optimal in terms of success.
  9. The "money" post. Well said OOTS. In reality, a combination of patrol interpreters and locally employed nationals. Who, are possibly the best "litmus" test that a commander has to know whether his objectives are being met.

    Completely take your point BlueDanubeWalt - think I might have been making the same point as well. In the meantime, recruitment continues apace with the big name players, both in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Indie article is one of a number of "we'll outsource this" oddities - and not isolated by many accounts. Personally, know a few Pashtu speaking OAP's - maybe they should offer up their services and save the 18 motnhs with Beaconsfield.