The power of language in Taji
Sergeant Mitchell Reeves has been an electronics-systems technician in the Australian Army for 14 years, but his deployment to Iraq as an Arabic interpreter is proving to be the highlight of his career.
CAPTION: Australian Army linguist Sergeant Mitchel Reeves with Iraqi Army Major Humam at the Taji Military Complex in Iraq. Photo by Corporal Oliver Carter.
“When I joined the Army, I never thought I would end up providing advice in Arabic to another fighting force,” he said.
“We are here to advise and assist the Iraqi Security Forces, but it’s the building of relationships between the Australian and Iraqi soldiers that makes this deployment so enjoyable.”
Sergeant Reeves studied Arabic at the Australian Defence Force School of Languages before completing a four-month language immersion program in Jordan.
He said working as an interpreter in Iraq was both rewarding and challenging.
“The hardest part about Arabic is that there is standard Arabic, spoken by the media, scholars and politicians, and there is the Arabic spoken on the street, so I have to learn a new dialect of Arabic every time I visit a new place,” he said.
Despite the challenges, Sergeant Reeves is a valuable asset to the small team advising and assisting the Iraqi Security Forces.
“Lately, they have been refurbishing their control centre and that has given us the ability to help them by providing tradesmen,” he said.
“With my background, I am able to give them a lot of electrical and mechanical advice.”
Sergeant Reeves is from Lavington in the Albury-Wodonga region and joined the Army after leaving high school.
“I thought it was a good way to get an apprenticeship,” Sergeant Reeves said.
“My old man said if you want to quit school you need to get into something … so I applied for the Army and within three months I was on the bus to Kapooka to complete basic training.”
Sergeant Reeves’ career has taken him all over Australia, including Townsville, Queensland, the Adelaide Hills, South Australia and Graytown, Victoria.
Sergeant Reeves has also enjoyed a brief stint in the United States to attend a radar maintenance course.