ASSOCIATION OF PATRIOTIC ARAB AMERICANS IN MILITARY   
                                                                    
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VOICES of APAAM is a patriotic periodical that profiles the contributions of Arab Americans in the US Armed Forces.   For media contact email [email protected], and find out more about us at www.apaam.org  

Arab Americans’ Contributions
Helping to Win the Peace and the Trust in Iraq
Written by:  Sergeant Ayman Kafel, US Army
 

        
When our unit touched down in Iraq in January of 2005,
  we did not really know what to expect.”
 

None of us in my Army Reserve Unit have ever been deployed to combat before, except for a selected few. Most of the men did not really know what the mission was actually like, or what their part of the mission was going to be. I knew right off the bat that my mission was going to be directly involved with the people of Iraq.  Little did I know exactly how much of an impact I was going to have on the entire battalion, and brigade.  

On my first mission to Baghdad with the Military Police (MP) unit I was with, we had to go to the French Embassy that was guarded by the Iraqi Police and Iraqi Army.  My squad leader asked me to help him talk to these guys, to let them know what our plan was. I jumped out of the truck with no hesitation and quickly started to talk to them.  

Immediately when I opened my mouth and said "Assalam wa Aliakum"(Peace be with you) The Iraqis were astonished that the U.S. Army had a soldier that could speak Arabic.  Most of the Arabic translators in Iraq are civilians working for civilian companies.  The atmosphere immediately turned from tense to a very relaxing one for both the U.S. forces and the Iraqi forces to work together.  This was due to the fact that through me the Iraqis were able to understand our intentions there. That gap that I helped close between two completely different cultures was so critical to our tactical and strategic part of our operations truly did make things so much easier for us to relay messages to the Iraqis.   

At the French Embassy, my squad leader immediately noticed the posture of the Iraqis change from tense to a little more relaxed, and quickly said to me "SGT Kafel you are a critical asset”.   

Soon after, we were getting juice and snacks from the Iraqis due to the rapport that I helped establish with them. I gave my guys Mango juice and other items. We managed to even get posters of Arnold Schwarzenegger since there was a gym there with all of his pictures.  In other places when we would conduct good will missions to nearby villages, the locals would be so happy to know that I spoke Arabic. They would flock to me with so many requests.  We would have side conversations about life in the U.S. that made our overall mission we had that day so much easier.  I felt that I was that bridge between the two cultures. I would sit down and have long conversations with the Muqtar of the village (Town Mayor) asking him what he needed, and what were some problems?  Was there Anyone perceived as to hurting his people?   

There were times though that I would get extremely critical information from Iraqis due to the fact that they would open up more to me because of my background - information that would lead to the capture of certain insurgents in our sector.  

I got to a point where patrols would come back and tell me that certain Iraqi locals were looking for me.  It is very important for people like us (Arab Americans) who are in the military to continue to do what we do. It is very critical to the operations that are going on in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places that we are there to fill in those gaps as much as we can due to our unique skills that can only be provided by people like Arab Americans.  

I was told once that it is not my responsibility to fight a war in Iraq.  In fact it is my biggest responsibility and our biggest responsibility as Arab Americans, that of helping to bridge the gap of misunderstanding and mistrust, and to create friendships, not enemies between the peoples of Iraq and the United States.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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