FORT STEWART, Ga. – The “Spartan Brigade,” 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, recently supported Operation Allies Welcome with one Soldier at Fort Pickett, Virginia, and two Soldiers at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, from September to December 2021.
Sgt. Shafaq Yuhanna, Sgt. Martinez and 1st Lt. Mohammed Anees were selected to be translators based on their backgrounds, which helped make OAW a success through making communications between personnel and Afghan guests possible.
As both military installations completed their OAW mission in February, the three Soldiers reflected on the Department of Homeland Security-led operation that provided Afghan evacuees essential support at secure locations around the United States.
Yuhanna, a Bradley Fighting Vehicle mechanic, and a native of Pakistan, was uniquely qualified because of her language skills and her shared experience living in the same region of the world.
“As linguists, we closed the gap between the [Afghan guests] and civilian agencies … They see the [Army] uniform and to them, the U.S. Army means something,” she said.
Yuhanna moved from Pakistan to the United States in 2009 and joined the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps in high school. Joining JROTC sparked her interest to enlist in the Army in 2013 because she wanted to give back to the military that helped protect her family.
Martinez, assigned to the “Gila Battalion,” 9th Brigade Engineer Battalion, supported OAW as a translator at Fort McCoy. Martinez joined the Army in 2013 with a focus to better himself.
“I wanted something more, and I wanted a little more out of my life,” Martinez explained.
During OAW, Martinez took on several roles while starting and ending at different geographic locations.
“I was originally sent to Al Udeid Air Force Base, Qatar, but then ended up at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin,” said Martinez. “I was translating for everything: during processing, assisting medical teams, food distribution and crowd control.”
Anees, an armor officer assigned to the “Mustang Squadron,” 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, and a native of Afghanistan, joined the Army in 2017 after being inspired by his interactions with U.S. military personnel in his native country.
“They encouraged me to become a U.S. citizen,” Anees said. “I could join because anyone could. [They said] You can do anything, and it was true.”
Anees was given the opportunity to serve in an administrative role at Fort McCoy to assign translators and provide cultural training for the personnel on base. Anees said he tangibly saw the impacts his administrative role was having daily.
“We took sleep shifts, but we were all excited for it,” he said, as he and his team were happy to help.
All three Soldiers felt accomplished during OAW by the positive impact they were making on the lives of the Afghan refugees.
“It was a great honor to serve and be able to help firsthand,” said Yuhanna.