By Army Sgt. Daniel Blottenberger
Special to American Forces Press Service
Oct. 9, 2008 - Most American soldiers serving in Iraq count down the days to when they can pack up their bags and return home. But for one soldier serving in Multinational Division Baghdad's 18th Military Police Brigade, returning home meant deploying to Iraq. Army Spc. Emad Jadan, an interpreter serving with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 18th Military Police Brigade, left Iraq at age 20 and started the process of becoming an American citizen. He lived in West Bloomfield, Mich., until he was 39, when he returned home to serve as an interpreter for the brigade's provincial-level police transition team.
"I am just a soldier who happens to speak Arabic," he said.
Jadan's journey to the United States began in 1990. He fled Iraq with his mother and sister when Saddam Hussein's forces invaded Kuwait, starting what would later be known as the Gulf War.
After his father died in 1985, Jadan was left to care for his small family, being the only male remaining in the family. Today, he credits his father for his strong values. His father worked for 22 years with the Iraqi government, controlling its finances.
"The Iraqi government under Saddam asked my father to become part of the Baath Party, and he refused, so he was forced to retire and open his own business," Jadan said. "He didn't join the party because he didn't believe in any of the things they believed in."
While growing up, Jadan visited the United Stats several times to visit relatives in Michigan. He recalled going into a toy store when he was 10 years old and being amazed by all the toys. He said he knew the United States was where he needed to go to keep his mother and sister safe from the war and Saddam's regime.
Jadan was forced to send his sister and mother to Michigan ahead of him because his immigration papers were not complete. He had to spend two years in Jordan to complete the papers before reuniting with them. Life in the United States was safe for his family, and Jadan went through several different businesses trying to make money to provide for his family. He owned a video store, a cell phone retail store, and then an auto glass shop.
Business was going well for Jadan until Sept. 11, 2001, a day Jadan said changed his life forever. From that time on, Jadan began working for the federal government and for Police stations in Michigan, doing jobs that he was not allowed to discuss for security reasons.
"I worked voluntarily to help out in whichever way I could," he said. "I wanted the criminals behind the attacks to be punished for what they did, and I wanted to prevent this from happening in the future."
Jadan said he liked working for the government, and that when Operation Iraqi Freedom started in 2003, he was keeping a close eye on what was happening.
"I don't call it the War in Iraq, I call it the Liberation of Iraq," said Jadan, who decided to join the Army as a military intelligence linguist in 2007.
He joined the Army to get the experience he needed to reach his career goal of becoming an Iraqi government advisor one day -- to work for a country that he says is one of his homes.
Now on his first tour in Iraq, he serves as an interpreter for a team that trains and mentors the Baghdad Police force. The teams have seen how beneficial it is to have an Army-trained linguist serving with them, he said.
"The training is valuable, but linguistic skills are obviously developed over a long period of time," said Army 2nd Lt. Jonathan Holliday, officer in charge of a police training team. "Jadan can read, write and speak Arabic better than any linguist I have worked with. He attempts to view his translations in both the context of how the people I speak with see the world and communicate and in the context of how I view what is being said and what I want to communicate."
Holliday added every day he works with Jadan, it reinforces to him how important it is to have a disciplined soldier who can translate for him and also understands the culture he is working with.
"Apart from the actual words being said, he can also help me understand many of the shared and differing cultural perspectives of Iraqis and Americans," Holliday said. "Being a soldier, he has an added perspective that soldiers share, which translates into the ability to further understand my objectives and perceptions. Having a civilian translator is valuable, but civilians see the world in a slightly different way than military personnel."
Jadan said he is able to do his job so well because he feels at home here.
"I like Iraq," said Jadan. "I am in a country that is more than 7,000 years old. It would be easy for the U.S. government and the Iraqi government to deal with an advisor that was both Iraqi and American as the link between the two nations."
From seeing Iraq as it was under Saddam's regime, Jadan said Iraq is much better today.
"The Iraqi people are tasting freedom for the first time," he said. "Iraqis are able to deal with any companies they would like, and there are no restrictions on them as consumers."
Jadan said he believes Iraq is on its way to being a successful democracy, and that once all the educated Iraqis who fled during the war return, the government and economy will become more successful.
"This is the first government in Iraq that is not run by a military force," Jadan noted. "Things are better than they were, and they will continue to get better as long as the Iraqi government continues to work for the Iraqi people."
Now a husband and father of two girls, Jadan said he is proud to be serving both Iraq and America.
(Army Sgt. Daniel Blottenberger of the 18th Military Police Brigade serves in the Multinational Division Baghdad Public Affairs Office.)