Terp Goes the extra mile
The Soldiers who had been guarding the gate shouted alerts and assumed firing positions. They made a circle around Faouzi Hamade, an interpreter for the Department of Defense, who was struggling to take a concealed object from the hand of an Iraqi woman. “It’s a grenade, be careful,” Hamade yelled.Only a few months earlier, Hamade, a Lebanese emigrant to the U.S., was home in Dearborn, Mich., with his wife, Miriam, and four children. He was sitting at the restaurant he owned reading the newspaper when he came across a Titan Corporation advertisement looking for Arab-speaking linguists willing to go to the Middle East. He didn’t have to think twice.“After being 25 years in the United States and that country taking care of you, you want to take care of your country,” Hamade said, “to pay your dues.” For Hamade, serving as a translator for U.S. troops would be paying those dues. After a few telephone interviews and a thorough background check, Hamade sold his restaurant and said goodbye to his family. He spent six days at Fort Bliss for a medical examination and an intense crash course on nuclear biological and chemical warfare before being flown to Kuwait. Hamade thought his mission would be in Kuwait, but he only spent a day there before being sent to Baghdad to translate for the 352nd Civil Affairs Command (CACOM). He was so concerned that his wife and children would worry about him that he did not tell them he was in Iraq for two months.The grenade incident occurred in May, 2003 at the north gate of a U.S. compound in Baghdad. Hamade was helping a Soldier communicate with a local man when he noticed a woman calling to him in Arabic, telling him to run away. As he approached her he saw that she was trying to pull something out of her clothes. When Hamade realized what it was, he stepped forward, seized the hand with the grenade and pulled it away from her body, and squeezed it to keep her from pulling the pin. “At that moment, I didn’t think about anything,” Hamade said. “The only thing that came to my mind is that I am in danger and I have to defend myself, or I or one of the Soldiers will be dead.”Hamade saw the pin was still in place and took the grenade. Up to this point he had been calm but as he held the deadly object in his hand he trembled with fear. Not wanting any of the Soldiers to come in harm’s way, Hamade searched the woman himself. He did not find any other weapons on her, but found an unusual amount of Iraqi money. The woman was detained for questioning, where she gave the names of several men who she said had paid her to throw the grenade at American troops. Hamade was praised for his heroism in civilian and military worlds alike as a result of the incident. The Dearborn city counsel issued Hamade a citation honoring his actions. Brig. Gen. John Kern, commander of the 352nd, later awarded him a coin for his heroism during the grenade incident. Col. John Logan Black, the team chief for the 352nd CACOM Public Heath Team, was so impressed that he wrote a recommendation letter in which he wrote, “Mr. Hamade is a person of high moral and ethical standards… he is within the top 1 percent of all the interpreters I have met here in Iraq.”Hamade’s tour ended Jan. 14, 2004. He spent a year as a truck driver in the United States before leaving on a voluntary second tour in April.