Trooper puts language skills to good use
December 22, 2009
BAGHDAD - Born and raised in St. Mary's County, Md., Cpl. Timothy Bennett described himself as a typical punk skateboarder with a mohawk. He is now a hard-working, successful Soldier in the U.S. Army. After graduating high school, Bennett earned an associate degree in film and video production from Full Sail University in Winter Park, Fla. "I wish I had joined the Army right after I graduated high school," said 24 year-old Bennett. "The Army is something I have always wanted to do. My father was in the Army, and that kind of sparked my interest, but I thought I would try college first." Bennett enlisted in the U.S. Army as a cavalry scout in 2005. Shortly after raising his right hand he shipped off to Fort Knox, Ky. for basic training. "I wanted a job that would keep me active and busy," Bennett said explaining his decision to enlist as a cavalry scout. Bennett plans on making the Army a career, and is creating goals along the way. His goals include qualifying as a ranger and eventually climbing through the ranks to a sergeant major. After he graduated basic training at Fort Knox, he went to his first duty station, Fort Hood, Texas, where he is now assigned to the 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. Not long after arriving to the unit they deployed to Baghdad in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from October 2006 to January 2008. During his first deployment Bennett took the time to learn basic Arabic, and now speaks it quite fluently. His knowledge of Arabic is useful when on patrols and talking to local nationals. "I naturally just picked it up," explained Bennett. "I listened to people talk while we were on patrol and picked up on the little things." It is normal to see Bennett having simple conversations with the locals while on patrol, said his battle buddy, Richtown, Va. native Spc. Nathan Huhn. "It amuses [the local nationals] that an American is able to hold a conversation as well as he can," Huhn admitted. "It helps earn the respect and trust of the local nationals when you show them you have put forth the effort to learn a little more about them, especially the language," Bennett explains. "They are also more responsive to [Soldiers] when they can see we are trying." Not only is the respect and trust of the local nationals earned, but the language barrier is minimized, which makes it easier for Bennett to continue his mission without the delay of looking for an interpreter. "It definitely helps while out on patrol," Bennett said. "If there is no interpreter around, I can still talk to the people and do my job." Bennett isn't the only one that benefits from his self-learned talent, his friends and fellow Soldiers use it too. "Guys in the platoon use me," Bennett laughed, explaining the effect of his talent on his platoon. "If they need help and the interpreter is busy they ask me for help." Deployed again to the Baghdad area, he continues to use what he learned from his last tour and is learning more every day. "I am not going to say I know the entire language, but I know enough to get by," Bennett said. "This isn't something I grew up saying I was going to do, or even a goal I had in mind, but I am glad that I learned [the language]."