U.S. Military Interpreters May Not Be Making the Grade

By Angelica Jimenez–

Despite being unable to speak Afghan languages, ABC News reports on a lawsuit that claims more than 25 percent of translators are ill-equipped to serve on the battlefield with American soldiers.

Paul Funk, a former employee and Vietnam veteran, alleged that applicants who failed language proficiency tests were still given passing grades.  The highly demanded and lucrative position play an extremely valuable role to American soldiers, some of who have compared the importance of a skilled translator to that of a useful weapon or “sturdy body of armor.”

Translators earn around $200,000, and the need has grown significantly.  Funk claims the qualified pool is tiny, but the contractor, Mission Essential Personnel, who holds a $1.4 billion contract, seems to have no shortage of translators.

There have been many cases where soldiers out in the field have received messages from town elders of nearby ambushes, but the translator was unable to relay the message, putting soldiers’ lives at risk.

Even the test methods where an applicant takes the test over the phone and then receives a written test by an outside vendor indicate it is ripe for fraud and abuse.  The financial resources are available, so soldiers’ interests and lives should be a top priority.

The lack of attention and uproar is surprising especially considering the spotlight on Pastor Terry Jones who remains on the fence about his plan to burn the Koran on the anniversary of 9/11.

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