Some translators are in their 60s and 70s and in poor physical condition — and some don’t even speak the right language. . . .
Troops say low-skilled and disgruntled translators are putting U.S. forces at risk.
“Intelligence can save Marines’ lives and give us the advantage on the battlefield,” said Cpl. William Woodall, 26, of Dallas, who works closely with translators. “Instead of looking for quality, the companies are just pushing bodies out here, and once they’re out the door, it’s not their problem anymore." . . .
The company that recruits most U.S. citizen translators, Columbus, Ohio-based Mission Essential Personnel, says it’s difficult to meet the increased demand for linguists to aid the 15,000 U.S. forces being sent to southern, Pashto-speaking provinces this year as part of President Barack Obama’s increased focus on Afghanistan. Only 7,700 Pashto speakers live in the U.S., according to the 2000 census.
Mission Essential’s senior vice president, Marc Peltier, told The Associated Press that the linguists the company deploys to Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries meet government standards. The military sets no age or weight requirements, he said. . . .
How translators come to believe they won’t face danger could originate with recruiters.
“They’re going to tell you whatever it is to get you hired,” Spangler said.
Khalid Nazary, an Afghan-American citizen living in Kabul, called Mission Essential about a job and let an AP reporter listen.
He asked if he would go to “dangerous places.”
“Oh, no, no, no. You’re not a soldier. You’re not a soldier. Not at all,” the recruiter, Tekelia Barnett, said. “You’re not on the battlefield." . . .
“They say you’ll get a shower once a day, have access to Internet and TV, call home six times a week,” Woodall said. “And when the guys get out, they’re completely shell-shocked. They’ve been lied to." . . .
The translators said dozens of linguists quit soon after arriving in Afghanistan in recent weeks. Spangler declined to provide numbers but said “quite a bit” resigned or were fired because they were too old, unfit or couldn’t speak Pashto. . . .
But Gamez said soldiers need translators now, and that some feign sickness to avoid work.
This is insane. Someone teach me Pashto and ship me over there. I'm nineteen years old, so there's no worry about me keeling over from a heart attack (though heat exhaustion might be a problem). I might not be able to keep up with Marines, but I'm stubborn enough to keep trying. And for $210,000 a year and the opportunity to serve my country, you wouldn't have to worry about me quitting (just surviving). I also won't require Internet service (just give me a journal) or phone calls home six times a week -- which seems a bit excessive in a war zone. But as for showers . . . well. I suppose we all have to make sacrifices.