Logan, Iraqi Boy Wonder
Iraqi boy assists Soldiers as an interpreter and a friend
MOSUL, Iraq – If the Army had an adopt-a-child program, Logan would be the poster child. For more than a year, the 13-year-old boy, who contends he’s 13 and a half, has lived and worked with Coalition forces at a forward operating base in Mosul. The boy speaks four languages and his official title at the FOB is translator and supervisor, but he is a Soldier at heart.
“I love American Soldiers. I want to help them in every way possible, because without them we (Iraqis) would have nothing,” said Logan, who also speaks Turkish, Arabic and Kurdish and is currently learning Spanish. “When Saddam ruled Iraq, he would kill somebody for speaking English or Kurdish. Things were very bad, but now we are much happier and I can speak all my languages freely.”
Not a day goes by that Logan doesn’t use his four languages. At the FOB, he helps Soldiers with more than 50 workers, who maintain buildings, electricity and plumbing.
“It would be very difficult to do my job without Logan. Some of the workers only speak Kurdish, Turkish or Arabic. Rather than having a translator for each group, Logan can talk to all of them,” said Staff Sgt. Phillip Powers, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the contracted workers on the FOB. “We tell him what we need done and then he supervises the workers on the project. Sometimes you forget he’s just a kid because he’s telling grown men what to do.”
Even though he’s barely 4 foot 10 inches, Logan is the big man at the FOB. He knows every Soldier by name and the Soldiers believe that the camp would not function without him.
“Everybody looks forward to talking to Logan,” said Spc. Jim Pelletier, scout platoon, 2/3. “He’s funny and is always asking if there’s anything he can get us at the market. Plus, when people first see a kid bossing around workers for the first time, they want to meet him and hear his story.”
Logan’s story is both compelling and sad. His uncle was killed by members of Saddam Hussein’s regime for speaking Turkish in Baghdad. One of 11 children, Logan learned English from his mother, who speaks seven languages. His father, who provided magazines to U.S. Army Soldiers during the first Gulf War, always told Logan about how great American Soldiers were. Even before Logan met a man in uniform, he liked Americans.
“Logan sees how American Soldiers act, and he tries to imitate their actions from the way he treats his workers to lifting weights to being confident,” said Sgt. Maj. Michael Brown, 2/3’s staff sergeant major. “In a lot of ways, he is a Soldier.”
Logan already owns two U.S. Army uniforms and although they barely fit him, it’s his dream to one day see specialist rank on the collar and his name on the chest.
“I want to be an American Soldier when I grow up,” he said. “I really want to be a specialist because those are the guys doing all the work.”
With tours with the 101st Airborne (Air Assault) Division and the Stryker Brigade, when Logan enlists, he may be the most experienced private to ever join the Army.
END OF STORY
When I found Logan, I knew his story would make an award-winning piece… but, I didn’t want to write it, because I was worried of the terrorists seeing his name, his photo and then track him down and kill him. Over a slice of Iraqi-made pizza, Logan asked me to write his story. I get this all the time, but never from Iraqi interpreters. I told him the dangers of such publicity and he said, “I don’t care. More people need to support us.” So, I wrote it, but I didn’t use his real name or where he was located.
His old unit has since redeployed to the states, but Logan now interprets for a high-ranking officer. He has perfect diction and could fit in at any American Junior High School, but the minute somebody talks trash on American soldiers, he’ll put a hurtin’ on ‘em.
He got kicked out of school for pulling a knife on a kid, who said “My dad says you’re working with infidels. He said you should be killed.” Well, Logan loves soldiers, and he’s got a tough-guy mentality just like us. And just like us, he’d take a bullet to save a soldier’s life.
In fact, he brags that he’s on two blacklists – a most wanted list – for the enemy. I think the only list I was on at 14 was the principal’s most likely to paddle list. (I hold the record in my middle school for the most swats in a week). If kids these days think they have problems with boyfriends, girlfriends and cleaning their room, maybe they should hear Logan’s story. And perhaps, they can hear it in person.
For some time, there’s been a plan to get this kid to the states. Now that he’s on blacklists, he may be granted asylum. “I want to be an American,” he said to me today.