SOUTHWEST ASIA, Aug. 24, 2015 – In 2003, when U.S. military forces pushed into Baghdad, a young Iraqi 13-year-old named Rahdi Mortda looked at how the U.S. Army soldiers conducted themselves with professionalism, and he said to himself, “One day I will be a U.S. soldier!”
Twelve years later, U.S. Army Spc. Rahdi Mortda returned to Iraq as a linguist assigned to the 310th Logistics Advise and Assist team serving the Iraq National Logistics Depot at Camp Taji in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
Linguists play a mission-essential role, serving as a conduit between Arabic and English speakers. Their job is not only to interpret what is said but serve as cultural advisers between two oftentimes very different peoples.
“I help Iraqis understand Americans,” Mortda said. “I also ensure what comes from the American side is said in a way that does not insult the Iraqi officers.”
Mortda is part of a group of seven linguists assisting the 310th A&A team that includes Iraqi local interpreters, American contractors and U.S. Army linguists. Each plays an important role that is highly valued by the team. Mortda himself served as a local interpreter from 2006-2010 before immigrating to the U.S.
“The U.S. Army helped me move out of Iraq and move to the States," Mortda explained. “I am happy to come here and serve. It is payback for what they gave me.”
In addition to accompanying soldiers on missions and serving as interpreters, the linguists also translate documents and teach Arabic to U.S. servicemembers.
“I look forward to going to the language classes,” said Staff Sgt. David Beasley, a tank mechanic with the 310th A&A serving on his first overseas deployment. The linguists are "very knowledgeable about the Arabic language and customs.”
The classes have active participation from the team including role-playing engagements with Iraqi leaders and learning about customs and culture.
“My favorite class (was when one of the linguists) dressed in his traditional tribal clothing and explained the meaning of each item,” explained Beasley. “Each garment had a meaning, and he explained how one cannot be worn without the other.”
The 310th A&A team is approaching the end of a very successful logistics advise and assist mission at Camp Taji, Iraq. A major factor in their success has been the skill and commitment of the linguists serving their team, said Col. Michael Midkiff, 310th A&A commander.
“There is no way we could accomplish this mission without linguists. It would be like going to war without ammunition.”