Monday, June 13, 2005

Note to self: Terps

Note to self: a good interpreter is priceless, unless you like blank stares.

One of my checkpoints was attacked tonight. It was manned by one of my
IA partnership platoons. It was more of a drive-by and mortaring than an all-out assault, but the initial report (which is almost always wrong) said they were under attack.

Off I go with the QRF. We arrive on site and all's quiet. The IA had dispatched one of their platoons and they were already on the ground, securing the area. Good. They're getting better every day. I walk up to the Sergeant that is in charge of the checkpoint, and look for the Terp. My QRF platoon brought one of the interpreters assigned to my company. I had given my interpreter the day off (he gets one day every 10 off) to go see his family. Moose is the best interpreter in my company. Aside from a detailed knowledge of the area, he's a former AIF arms dealer and knows a lot about the bad guys. (And he's not still AIF. My IA company commander is his uncle and would kill him personally.) So I am in a comfort zone with Moose.

DJ is the second best in the company. He's just as skilled as moose, but still hides behind a mask because he is afraid of retribution against him and his family. It annoys me that he does this, so I usually parcel him out to whichever platoon has a mission. We have four other terps, one we call Whiskey who is pretty good and three others whose names I haven't bothered to learn because I hate the blank stares they give me when I ask them questions. They speekee ingrish like I speekee ancient aramaic. I don't know how they got hired. Perhaps they can do alright at the "see dick run" test, but in the "commander on the ground trying to develop the situation" test, they forgot their slide rule, blue book, crib notes, calculator, pencil, and Ritalin.

Which terp do you think came along for the ride? I don't know. Because he's one of the ones whose name I hadn't bothered to learn. I'll just call him dumbass.

I am trying to figure out three things: Where did the attackers come from and where did they go, is anybody injured, and are there any detainees.

Me (addressing the
IA Sergeant (SGT)): “Where did the attackers come from and where did they go?”
Dumbass: Silence.
Me (looking away from the SGT now and at the terp): "Ask Him!"
Dumbass: "What?"
Me (getting ticked, but realizing I talk fast): "Where. did. the. attackers. come. from. and. where. did. they. go?"
Dumbass: “I don’t know where are they.”

Me: “Hey dumbass, ask him the question.”

Dumbass (Klingon Arabic): “He say attackers are gone.”

Me: “You don’t say. That esplains why no one is shooting right now.”

Dumbass: “What?”

Me: “Never mind. Is anyone hurt?”

Dumbass: “I am okay.”

Me: “Not you; ask the IA SGT if any one is hurt.”
Dumbass (Klingon Arabic):

Me: “Well?”

Dumbass: “What?”

Me: “What did he say?”

Dumbass: “He said the attackers come from over here. (points)”

Me: “Are you retarded?”

Dumbass: “What?”

And so it went for another five minutes. At that point I realized that I needed to A) get hold of someone who could speak English and Arabic, and B) go to the IA headquarters and find out what they knew. It’s 1130 at night and I really just wanted to go to bed.

I get the IA SGT to the HMMWV and call the BN. They keep a terp on standby to monitor the IA radio, and I got him on the net. I explained what I needed to know, and gave the IA SGT a quick class on how to make the hand mic work. (Push the button to talk, release to listen—it’s not that hard, but you’d be surprised...) Two minutes later I had the info I needed. I sent three trucks to pick up DJ, (whom I thought they had when they rolled out) and secured the checkpoint with the IA (they didn’t need us there, but they feel better when we’re there.)

Off to the IA Headquarters for the hour-long 15 minute conversation. I let my PL go and do the grip and grin, I stayed in the truck. Otherwise they’d have tried to feed me, and I have a long drive tomorrow and didn’t need the PBS. Back home again at 0100, up thinking and stewing and cooling down for three hours to get up and go at it again tomorrow (today). Joy.


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