Interpreters to be prepared at Aberdeen Proving Ground

December 17, 1992|By Bruce Reid | Bruce Reid,Staff Writer

Aberdeen Proving Ground will join the famine-relief effort in Somalia today as the Army post readies 100 civilian interpreters for 60- to 90-day tours in the East African nation.

The interpreters, many of them Somalian citizens or students attending college in the Washington area, are to spend the day at the Harford County installation. They will be issued Army uniforms, boots and other field equipment. Some will be inoculated against diseases.

Then, the men and women will fly to Somalia tomorrow from McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey.

The interpreters are temporary employees of BDM International Inc., an Army contractor in McLean, Va.

"U.S. forces must be able to communicate with the people of Somalia if this humanitarian effort is going to succeed," said Philip A. Odeen, BDM president.

Army officials said the primary languages spoken in Somalia are Somali and an Arabic dialect -- as well as English.

The interpreters, who volunteered for the jobs, were located by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. They will be paid $2,000 a month while in Somalia, Army officials said.

The proving ground's participation in Operation Restore Hope is similar to the role the installation played during the Persian Gulf war, when about 4,000 National Guard troops, reserves and civilians went there to prepare for the harsh Middle East desert environment.

"It's always very gratifying to support the Army in a large-scale mobilization," said John G. Yaquiant, a spokesman for the proving ground. "It's especially sweet that this is a humanitarian mission."

During the Persian Gulf war, civilians and military personnel who trained at the proving ground were briefed on Saudi Arabian customs, counterterrorism techniques and responses to a chemical attack, among other things.

The proving ground, Harford's largest employer, is a research and weapons-testing installation. In addition to supporting the Army's development of advanced weaponry, it is designated as the sole Defense Department "mobilization" center in Maryland.

Mr. Yaquiant said the proving ground has been gearing up to accept civilians or military personnel who may be joining Operation Restore Hope.

"We feel fairly sure that we will be getting more folks in the future," he said.

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