Airman boosts host-nation relations
By Tech. Sgt. Orville Desjarlais, Air Force Print News
/ Published October 16, 2003
SOUTHWEST ASIA -- During the pre-dawn hours of Oct. 11, Jackal Two, a 380th Air Expeditionary Wing security forces patrol, noticed a vibratory roller -- better known as a steamroller -- with its headlights on, parked outside the perimeter of the base fence.
The night-shift patrol feared the worst at this undisclosed desert location. With terrorism on the rise, anything odd catches their attention. On a whim, the heavy-equipment operator could have easily used his 10 tons of machinery to flatten the fence and barrel right in. However, because they had no legal jurisdiction outside the fence, the two-man patrol could not question the driver.
Instead of wasting precious minutes waking their interpreter, waiting for him to get to the location, then having the interpreter ask host-nation security to question the suspicious man, security forces called on one of their own, Airman 1st Class Ramin Amely. Time was of the essence. Since he was working at another gate at the time, he could get to the back gate within minutes and was fluent in Farsi, as well as speak a little Arabic, the local language.
“In broken Arabic, I explained our concerns to host-nation security, and they checked the guy out,” said Amely, who deployed here from Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. “They said 3:30 a.m. was duty time for the driver. Because of the heat, they started work early in the morning.”
It may not sound like a big, international incident, but Amely said he likes to help solve problems before they escalate into big ones.
“His ability to speak the local language really helps us out,” said Master Sgt. Rhett Perdue, the night-shift flight chief and Amely’s supervisor. “We use Amely when an interpreter is unavailable, or if an incident happens in the middle of the night and it would take too long for our interpreter to get there.”
Besides Air Force patrols, the security forces use what is known here as combined patrols -- host-nation security forces teamed with 380th patrol units.
“Amely helps foster better relations with our host nation, especially with our combined patrols, because he can speak their language and act as a go between,” Perdue said.
Born in Florence, Calif., Amely learned to speak Farsi at home because his father, brother and grandmother were all born in Tehran, Iran. English is his primary language, and Farsi is his second language -- one he finds useful. In a land where bartering for lower prices is the norm, Amely’s skill is a commodity many people want.
“My friends ask me to go downtown to wheel and deal,” Amely said.
Although he gets additional pay for his ability to fluently speak another language, Amely said he gets more satisfaction when he makes friends with his host-nation colleagues and learns more about their culture. He thinks everybody else should do the same.
“If you’re in a foreign nation, learn a little of the language, even if it’s just hello and goodbye,” Amely said. “They don’t care if you can say their words perfectly. They appreciate your trying to learn their language and care enough about their culture to give it a try.”
When Amely speaks to his host-nation friends in their language, they answer in English. They, too, want to learn another language and better understand Americans and their culture.