Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Leon Wong
From August 30 to September 26, two interpreters roamed the deck plates of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). Many of the crew, unknown to their role aboard the ship, saw them pass through the passageways of the ship, possibly transiting to the smoke pit or running to the combat direction center (CDC) during a ship’s nautical or otherwise photographic interpretation and examination (SNOOPIE) interaction.
Ehsan “Sam” Hajo, from Houston, Texas, and Chakib “Shaq” Fouad, from Augusta, Ga., were sent to Nimitz on a month long assignment from Global Linguist Solutions (GLS) to aid the crew in interactions at sea with foreign vessels or aircraft. For Sam, a veteran interpreter, this would be his first assignment with GLS since he joined in January 2017. Shaq, on the other hand, has been working with GLS since 2013, after a 20-year career in the U.S. Navy as a chief cryptologic technician (interpretive).
As they wrapped up their short journey with Nimitz, they agreed to share their experiences.
Nimitz News (NN): So what were your roles aboard Nimitz?
Sam: We are basically part of the SNOOPIE team in which we do the translations. Geographically, the languages that are important are Farsi and Arabic. We mostly encounter Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and usually, at least once a day, we get on the radio and talk to them to clear the way for our flights because they get in the way. Most of the time, they don’t respond to the English calls of the ship, and that’s when they call us to talk to them. Once I talk to them, they’re gone. It takes minutes. I call mys
elf “the General” here. When they call the General, *click*, they’re out of here.
NN: Why do you think it’s important to have an interpreter
aboard a U.S. Navy vessel?
Sam: In my opinion, the United States Navy does not want to have any mishaps or any miscommunications. They make sure their communications are clear with any parties that they are going to engage with. They do not want to have any incidents because they are working in international waters.
Shaq: As Sam said, our job here aboard ships, aboard U.S. Navy vessels is crucial, it’s very important. Both of us are native speakers, we understand the language, we understand the culture and we also know how to talk directly to the target, whether it’s a surface target or air target. By stating it directly and precisely
what needs to be done.
NN: What have you enjoyed about the job?
Sam: It’s meeting the people that I am w
orking with. They are very interesting, amazing people. I’ve made many, many friends that I would like to stay with them for the rest of the mission, but of course our company has a policy of rotating translators here, that everybody gets a chance to come aboard and get enough rest because we are not volunteers like most of the crew here. We’re here based on certain timely missions that we have to fulfill and get back to base.
NN: This one’s for Shaq. How does it feel to operate with Navy personnel again?
Shaq: Oh, it’s always a pleasure. It’s an honor. I served with honor and I’m still serving, even as a civilian. I’m still proud to be among shipmates and Sailors. As I said, I spent 20 years within the commun
ity, so I still feel like I’m still a part of it.
NN: Is this your first time back aboard a ship since you retired?
Shaq: No, no. I’ve actually been doing this for a while, since 2013 as a civilian. They’ll fly us out whenever they need
NN: What other assignment do you get assigned?
Shaq: Me and Sam and other linguists, we usually… we multitask. We do visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) teams, maritime interdiction, support land base, and sometimes when it comes to officials, military officials, if they need to have an interpreter we go there to serve.
NN: For Sam. How have you liked the ship life so far?
Sam: So far it’s been so much fun. I’ve been telling the guys, “There’s sooo much bacon. Man, I don’t want to go!” I love bacon, but that’s not the only reason why I’m here. I’m here to provide my services as a linguist.
NN: What are some places you have been during your careers as linguists?
Sam: I’ve worked as a translator in other different countries like Syria back when we had too many Iranians come in and traveling through because there’s not embassy in Iran. They would come to Syria and travel from Syria to the United States. That’s when I did the translations back then in 1986. I wanted to do this when I came to the States in 1991, but my wife did not want me to get out of the country. I put all of my dreams on hold until the divorce happened 23 years later, and now I’m chasing my dream.
Shaq: In my background, I did a lot of different vessels. From coastal patrol ships to destroyers to submarines and aircraft carriers, I’ve done it all. But still, I haven’t been aboard an aircraft carrier since 2002, which was the Enterprise. As I told Sam, even though I was in the Navy and served for 20 years, coming back again on a carrier was still overwhelming.
NN: Did you have any difficulties integrating with the ship?
Sam: We had a few difficulties. We were getting lost a lot. We didn’t know our way around because the ship was so big. The second thing was the heat. Of course, the ship has nothing to do with it. We had a hard time getting enough rest because the ventilation was hot. Other than that, everything else was sweet.
NN: Do you have any parting word for the crew of the Nimitz before you go?
Shaq: I wish to everybody on board, from the highest rank to the lowest rank, have a safe trip back home. I wish you guys the best. You guys are awesome. Thank you for the hospitality. Everybody has been good to us; everybody has been kind to us. We appreciate everything. We’re here to serve and we continue to serve the Navy and our country, the United States of America. HOOYAH!
Sam: I’m proud of all of you, I wish I could finis
h the mission with you guys but again, we’re going to go with the company policy and send two new guys. One of them is brand new, just like me. Shaq, my partner here, is here to show me the ropes, and luckily he was a retired chief here so he knows the culture of the Navy. It’s been a school for me here. I’m very lucky, very blessed. To conclude, thank you, Nimitzanians!
The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations to conduct maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners, preserve freedom of navigation and maintain the free flow of commerce.