TBILISI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Georgia - As a Tbilisi, Georgia native, U.S. Army Soldier Pfc. Aleksandre Chkhikvishvili, unit supply specialist, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 277th Aviation Support Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, New York, is now an interpreter during Exercise Noble Partner, here in Tbilisi.
Exercise Noble Partner is a multinational, U.S. Army Europe-led exercise conducting home station training for the Georgian light infantry company designated for the NATO Response Force. The eight nations participating in Noble Partner are Armenia, Georgia, Germany, Great Britain, Slovenia, Turkey, Ukraine and the United States.
As a child, Chkhikvishvili knew he wanted to be in the military. His father, once a major in the Georgian Army, was a large influence on this decision. He told his sons stories of Georgia's civil war and conflicts in Abhkazia.
In June 2015, Chkhikvishvili and his family left Georgia for the U.S. after receiving green cards.
Although he originally planned to serve in the Georgian Army, Chkhikvishvili redirected his desire to join the U.S. Army. In August, he started speaking to recruiters.
"I joined the United States military because I understood that it would give me more chances in my life, to get better, to be a professional," he said. "Even if I ETS (expiration- term of service contract), I can get more jobs as a civilian and to give me a lot of opportunities in my life."
In February, Chkhikvishvili's unit deployed to Germany for its rotation to Operation Atlantic Resolve. During the rotation, he has also been in Bulgaria and Romania.
Learning he would be returning to Georgia for the first time since leaving the country was an incredible moment.
"I remember I was eating dinner, I ate it in like two minutes and ran to my 1st Sgt.," Chkhikvishvili said. "I was asking if it was true or no and he said, 'Yes, you're going to Georgia.' I cannot even describe my feelings, it was great."
Afterwards, he called his parents, brother and grandparents to share the news.
July 30, Chkhikvishvili arrived in Georgia with the 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, New York. The unit, also in eastern Europe for a rotation, is participating in Noble Partner. Chkhikvishvili supports the unit by acting as an interpreter.
On a daily basis, he works the night shift for black hawk pilots. He'll speak to soldiers in the Georgian Army, check on medevac flights and fill in flight plans. Whenever pilots need to communicate with soldiers in the Georgian Army, he is translating.
Since returning, Chkhikvishvili has noticed changes to Tblisi. New buildings he doesn't recognize, a mall he's never been in and a new terminal at the airport.
Upon request, Chkhikvishvili bought small gifts as souvenirs for friends still in Germany. He's bought keychains, Georgian cups and lighters and shirts with the Georgian alphabet.
During a cultural day for the Army, he expects to act as tour guide. He plans to visit local areas, churches and restaurants.
"Of course, they're going to try the Georgian food," said Chkhikvishvili. "That's the main thing, because the food that we've got is, for me, the best in the world."
While the cultural day is yet undetermined, Chkhikvishvili is more eager to see the grandparents and friends he left behind.
Chkhikvishvili's experience as an interpreter has given him a small glimpse of what it may be like to be an interpreter in the military. It's another military career he may choose to pursue in the future, he said.
"Being an interpreter in my (native) country, it actually means a lot to me," he said. "I'm trying to help both sides, the American side and the Georgian side."
Helping both sides communicate and understand each other is a satisfying feeling, he said.