This USA Today article provides a splendid example of the potential benefits of a reform I have long advocated — making it easier to enroll foreigners in the U.S. military. It describes the experience of Forat Aldawoodi, who served as an interpreter for U.S. forces in Iraq, then immigrated to the U.S., joined the Army, and went back to Iraq as a soldier patrolling the very neighborhood he once lived in.
Here is how his commanding officer, Lt. Col. Dave Bair of the 82nd Airborne Division, describes Aldwadoodi’s contributions:
What makes Aldawoodi so valuable is his familiarity with the area and a native understanding of Iraqi culture, Bair said. On almost every mission, Aldawoodi accompanies him, according to Bair. After meeting with a community leader or local Iraqi security force commander, Bair usually calls Aldawoodi into his office to get his impressions and thoughts on what was said between the lines.
When not on patrol, Aldawoodi spends much of his time on the phone, reaching out to Iraqi leaders on behalf of Bair or calling friends to get a better sense of the mood on the street.
Though Aldawoodi is barely a year out of boot camp and holds a junior rank, Bair said he considers him a trusted adviser. “I have to remind myself that he’s just an E-4 (specialist),” Bair said. “I load him up just as much as I do some of my officers. I can’t stress how valuable he’s been to us here.”
There are lots of people like Aldawoodi around the world who have great respect for America and would be eager to join our armed forces for a chance at citizenship. If we facilitate that process — as the armed forces are starting to — we will in return get many valuable members of the military and of society in general.
I am not much swayed by diatribes about how Rome fell because of its supposed overreliance on mercenaries. That’s not true and even if it were it’s of no relevance today because I am not suggesting turning over our defense to mercenaries. All I am suggesting is that we supplement our existing soldiery with more foreign-born volunteers who, like many illustrious predecessors, aspire to become Americans. One of Rome’s strengths was actually its ability to assimilate foreigners and that is one of America’s strengths as well — one we should do more to take advantage of.