American armed forces in Afghanistan increasingly have their lives placed at risk because language translators arrive who are out of shape, bewildered they must serve in combat zones and are often unfamiliar with the languages of local people. Many translators are in their fifties, sixties and even seventies which makes them physically unfit to be with Marines and Army men who are fighting in rural or mountainous areas. Troops claim low-skilled and disgruntled translators place their lives at risk. Cpl. William Woodall made clear, “intelligence can save Marines’ lives and give us an advantage on the battlefield,” but when translators are physically unable to keep up with Marines they become a burden rather than an asset.
Many translators claim they were misled by recruiters who told them their jobs would not be in combat zones but in safe areas. Khalid Nazary, an Afghan American citizen living in Kabul was told by a recruiter, “You’re not on the battlefield.” The US army believes recruiters will say whatever is necessary to get the person signed up so they can collect their fees while those in combat must deal with an upset, physically unfit and bewildered individual who doesn’t want to be near any combat.
Of course, lost in this problem is the reality that dozens of highly qualified and physically fit translators have been fired from the armed forces due to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy which keeps out gays and lesbians. Ask those in combat if they would prefer a qualified gay translator or an unfit straight man!