I read "U.S. firm that provides Arabic translators criticized," (article, Aug. 14), on the issues faced with getting translators. I am an active-duty Marine and hold a secondary military occupational specialty of translator.
I deployed to Pakistan in 2005 as part of a relief effort in response to the earthquake that devastated the region. I was the only translator attached to a field hospital comprising 220 sailors and Marines. There were three other language speakers posted with our security detail. Professional translators were to be hired through the State Department in country. That never materialized.
In the first three days we treated about 200 patients. Finally, frustrated with the excruciatingly slow pace, I asked a patient, a local college student, if he spoke English and would help. The young man not only stayed for 10 hours, he brought two friends the following day. Within days we had five young men and two young ladies, all college students, assisting our doctors.
The patient turnover went from 60 a day to 250-plus a day. It took two weeks to cut through red tape to get these translators compensation. Eventually we started paying them about $1.70 per hour. We ended the deployment with seven young men and six young ladies translating for our doctors in triage. More than 14,000 patients were treated at our facility in three months and the total cost of translators came to just under $9,800.
If the service is frustrated at not having enough translators, we are doubly so at not being able to alleviate the problem. The services pay exorbitant amounts to professional translators from host nations. These individuals have no service affiliation or loyalty beyond a paycheck. We have people who have the aptitude and desire to be translators. We should grow our own diligently.
Gunnery Sgt. Suleman SobaniCamp Buehring, Kuwait