By Navy Seaman Anna Wade
U.S. Naval Forces Central Command
GULF OF OMAN, April 21, 2011 – When the visit, board, search and seizure team aboard guided-missile destroyer USS Bulkeley conducted an approach-and-visit operation here April 5, the team brought its own translator for the first time.
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Kashou, an operations specialist and a new member of the team, is a Palestinian-American who grew up speaking Arabic.
"[Kashou] has become our hero here,” said Navy Ensign Michael Seymour, Bulkeley's boarding officer. “His first trip out with the VBSS team proved to be a huge success since we were able to use his language skills to our advantage."
When VBSS members conduct operations with small vessels in foreign waters, they often encounter non-English-speaking mariners. The team members are taught a few Arabic phrases, but the team benefits greatly from having someone who can understand what people are saying and speak to them fluently, Seymour said.
"It feels good to be contributing to the 'global force for good' with the skills I was taught as a child,” Kashou said. “Arabic is a skill I am lucky to have, and I am thrilled to be a part of the VBSS team, helping them communicate with people who speak Arabic."
Seymour said there would have been little dialogue between the VBSS team members and the fishermen if Kashou had not joined the team.
"We are really lucky to have Kashou aboard the Bulkeley,” he said. “Without him, we would have run into a communication barrier between us and the fishermen. I truly believe without sailors like Kashou, the Navy would not be as strong as it is today."
USS Bulkeley is part of the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group, conducting maritime security operations on a routine deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.