24th MEU (SOC) Linguists prove communication is key

22 Apr 2003 | Lance Cpl. Alexander Whitney

Communication is essential to the accomplishment of any mission.  For the Arabic-speaking members of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), this theory has been proven many times in training.  Now it has been proven for them in a real world operation, Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The training these Marines go through is extensive. At the Defense Linguist Institute in Monterey, Cali, they are given a 63-week course in the Arabic world. The instructors, all of a native Arabic background, provide them with a hands-on approach to the language, culture, religion and much more. They are taken on field trips to Arabic regions where they experience the food and lifestyle as well as learn the body language when one speaks, all of which has proven useful. "In school, we learn the proper form of the language.  Out here, it's difficult at first to understand them.  Like us, they have different dialects," said Sergeant Joseph D. Richardson, a Philadelphia native.

Here their mission hasn't been easy.  They are tasked with communicating with the Iraqi people, some friends, some foes, to weed out useful information on weapons caches, senior Ba'ath party officials, and other pertinent information which could benefit the Coalition forces, and ultimately the people of Iraq.

"The people here are still fearful of retribution, they want to help the coalition," said Gunnery Sergeant Jason M. Denuzzi, an Aurora, Co. native.  Denuzzi's job isn't an easy one. He's tasked with communicating, through the Arabic language, to the local people.

"Knowing that being here and helping with intelligence on weapons and ammunition and getting rid of those is very rewarding; its nice to clean up the streets," said Sergeant Scott Twitty, a native of Tishomingo, Miss. And that's just what he and others have been doing.  Since the beginning of the MEU's role in Operation Iraqi Freedom, numerous weapons and ammunition caches have been found, as well as several high level Ba'ath party officials. "Certain (Iraqi) individuals are trying to clean up their own cities and they are more then willing to help," said Sergeant Roy A. Sanders, a Porter, Tx native. "Back home in the states there are some protests, here (in Central Iraq) the people I spoke thank us for being here, and they mean it." "The kids who speak little or no English have all learned some, the chant No Saddam, Yes Bush, said Twitty.

While getting information on weapons and officials, the linguists have also had other roles too. They work directly for individual unit commanding officers and provide translation for them.  They have spoken to numerous local police officials and have provided some training to them through other units in the MEU, all the while trying to find out the needs of the city and the people so they can build a picture for follow on forces. They have also participated in local elections in various towns to start some form of a local, small-size government.

Without the training and hard work of these Arabic-speaking Marines, the MEU's mission would have been difficult to accomplish. Whether they are gathering information or translating a conversation, they did their job in Iraq very successfully.