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Guiding Afghan evacuees: Soldier volunteers as interpreter

By Spc. Froylan Grimaldo | 7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

FORT McCOY, Wis. — When Operation Allies Welcome (OAW) first kicked off, one of the biggest challenges was communicating with the Afghan evacuees. Some spoke English, but there were still some troubles in guiding Afghan evacuees through the initial processing as there was still that language barrier.

Thankfully, among the ranks of 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Sgt. Mohammad Jamil, a tank gunner, volunteered to help be the communication source to both the Afghans and U.S. government officials.

“My role in OAW is to provide linguistic services so that U.S. government officials, Soldiers and all the Afghan allies that we have on Fort McCoy (Wisconsin) can communicate with each other and get their immigration and everything done in here,” said Jamil.

When the request was pushed out to units across the U.S. for assistance in OAW, Jamil’s chain of command went to him, asking if he wanted to assist in the immigration process for Afghan evacuees at Fort McCoy.

“When I found out about this assignment, I was allowed to accept it or tell them that I did not want to do it,” said Jamil. “But, my thought was, since I came from an Afghan background I immediately started thinking about my situation. How I was feeling when I was new to the United States and after thinking about this assignment, I realized that by doing this I will be able to help Afghan people, the people that I belong to, and also serve my current country.”

This isn’t Jamil’s first time working as a linguist for the U.S. Army. Before moving to the U.S., he worked as a linguist for several Army units in Afghanistan.

“I was a local national linguist in Afghanistan,” said Jamil. “I worked as a linguist for about a year and a half, and I got to work with different units from Hawaii, Fort Carson and Texas. The best part is that the unit I used to work for in Afghanistan, as an interpreter, I’m assigned to that same unit right now. So, it was a great journey for me. I moved to the United States in 2014. Shortly after moving, I realized that the United States has given me so many opportunities. A new life, a guaranteed future, therefore I wanted to return the favor and serve the country the best way I could think of and join the U.S. Army.”

Being one of the first interpreters to work with Task Force McCoy, he has given it his all to aid the Afghans in being able to transition to a new country.

“Sgt. Jamil’s efforts to assist Afghan evacuees have been instrumental in helping them transition from life

in Afghanistan into their new lives in the United States,” said 1st Lt. Alexander Werden, deputy public affairs officer, 4th Infantry Division, currently tasked to support Operation Allies Welcome at Fort McCoy. “He was one of the first interpreters on the ground at Fort McCoy and would volunteer to stay for hours beyond his assigned 12-hour shifts to ensure that the needs of every single arriving guest were met. You (can) tell that he cares about helping as many people as he can, and he continues to do that every day in the medical clinic by drawing from his experiences living in Afghanistan to use extraordinary empathy while assisting our guests.”

Having come a long way from his hometown, assigned to the same unit he once worked for as a local national, now he is getting the chance to repay that favor by helping his fellow Afghans as they go through the same struggles he did.

“I feel very honored,” said Jamil. “I feel like a lot of normal Afghan-American citizens who are living in the United States are not as lucky as I am because I get to serve my country, the United States of America. Then I get to help the people that I have a background from. So, for me, I cannot find a word to describe how I feel because I’m feeling blessed and honored that I’m helping my people to deal with their frustration in moving to a new country and help them start their new life here.”

Guiding Afghan evacuees: Soldier volunteers as interpreter
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