FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. -- On March 25, family and friends from across the globe traveled to Fort Huachuca to witness 40 Soldiers from B Company, 309th Military Intelligence Battalion who were graduating from the 09L Interpreter/Translator Advanced Individual Training Course.

Twenty-eight of those graduates also participated in a Naturalization Ceremony that day, declaring them United States citizens.

The 09L program recruits native and heritage speakers of Arabic Kurdish, Dari, Pashto and Farsi, and deploys them to serve as interpreters and translators in support of US military missions, overseas and in the US. In 2003 the Army began enlisting these native speakers as translators/interpreters to support Soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

AIT for these Soldiers was assigned to Fort Jackson, S.C., and after a few years the 09L military occupational specialty was established.

The Army announced their decision to relocate the 09L Translator/Interpreter AIT Course from Fort Jackson to the military intelligence school at the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence and Fort Huachuca, this past December.

The Soldiers began the 7-week course on Feb. 1. During the graduation ceremony, Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Roberts, 111th MI Brigade, spoke to the graduates and told them, "you bring a unique ability to the Army.

As 09 Limas, you are integral to daily combat operations [and an] invaluable asset to the intelligence community as a whole."

He also reminded the graduates, their families and friends, "in the end we all have the same goal, fighting and winning our nation's war." Roberts expressed his gratitude to his Soldiers by saying, "whatever your reason is for joining, thank you."

During the Naturalization Ceremony, John Kramer, expressed his appreciation to the Soldiers by explaining, "for those of us in civil services, we serve in your shadow, so thank you very much."

Kramer is the director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services District 25. Before reciting the Order of Admission of Citizenship and Oath of Allegiance, Kramer told those about to recite the oath, "you get a whole new set of rights... but along with those rights comes great responsibility."

Each Soldier who became a citizen that day had their own, specialized reason for wanting to serve in the U.S. Army and become a citizen. Spc. Noel, who left Lebanon eight years ago, graduated and was naturalized during the ceremony.

He says he hopes he can start doing his job as an Arabic interpreter, and chose to become a Solider because, "the Army needed people who speak Arabic and I have that to give in return." Noel says his home country shares some of the freedom and the values that are found in America, but "with the taste of that I wanted the whole nine yards all my life."

"When I came here I felt like I was treated like a human being," explains Spc. John, an 09L course graduate and native of Sudan who became a citizen in 2008. After leaving his home country in 2000, he came to the U.S. and says, "America is my country."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16