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California National Guard Interpreters

Veteran News
Veteran News
November 14, 2016
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The California National Guard’s troubles are only growing as news emerges that while it overpaid bonuses to some soldiers and took them back, the Guard also never paid bonuses that were rightfully owed to military interpreters, according to the Los Angeles Times.In the early and mid-2000’s, the need for Arabic, Dari and Pashto speakers rose to an unprecedented level as hundreds of thousands of troops flowed into Iraq and Afghanistan. These units needed interpreters to assist with all aspects of operations, including coordinating meetings with local officials, reading documents written in native languages, collecting human intelligence and evaluating trustworthiness of local workers.While the government often used local nationals as interpreters, the military especially relied on American citizens and green card holders in order to have an interpreter force that wouldn’t be able to quit easily.


Interpreters recruited under looser regulations denied their bonuses for failing to meet regs

The need for translators was so great that some rules on medical issues, age and fitness were relaxed in order for the California Guard to enlist native Arabic, Dari and Pashto speakers.Many of the interpreters, known as 09 Limas, deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq and came back without collecting the entirety of their bonuses.Col. Peter Cross, a spokesman for the California Guard, said that the “complexity arose in cases where neither the soldier nor the Guard could locate a copy of any agreement, although work was done by the soldier that likely would have given rise to a bonus payment.”Many 09 Limas deployed immediately and then requested to go into the inactive Guard in order to become contractors, which violated their enlistment agreements. Others, however, performed their duties faithfully but never received any money.One interpreter was promised a $10,000 bonus for enlisting, but when he failed the aptitude test required of all Army recruits, he was denied the bonus.That didn’t stop the Guard from sending him to Iraq in 2008, however.All of the interpreters who were denied bonuses deployed and faced the same hazards as any other soldier. Many of them are first or second-generation immigrants from places such as Libya and Iran, and their native speaking skills make them invaluable on the battlefield.One interpreter enlisted, received the first $10,000 of his $20,000 bonus, and then was denied the rest because of one missing initial on a page of his contract.After a year of appeals, he was told he would eligible for his entire bonus. He is still waiting for his money.

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