Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Freindships developed in Iraq turns into life's mission for Oregon Guardsman

For Soldier Jason Faler, the Iraq War isn't over.

The Oregon Army National Guard captain, who served a year in Iraq in 2005, has turned his friendships with Iraqi interpreters into a life's mission.

The American military has relied heavily on Iraqi workers to help with everything from interpreting to construction since entering the country in 2003. Because of their alliance with the U.S. troops, these workers have been the target of insurgents. Over 300 Iraqis have been killed, with many of them fleeing to neighboring countries.

While working as a liaison with the Iraqi Ministry of Defense during his deployment, Faler befreinded several interpreters. Aware of the persecution facing the Iraqis, he set about finding a way to help find them safe haven in America. His efforts resulted in the Checkpoint One Foundation.

The non-profit is chartered with bringing Iraqi and Afghanistani interpreters who have served with U.S. Armed Forces to safety in the United States. The 501(c)(3) was created with the help of Salem attorney, Scott McGraw, who was approached by Faler in 2007.

"A great deal of thought and effort went into the foundation," McGraw said during a May 2008 interview with the Oregon National Guard Public Affairs Office.

The effort has garnered the support of fellow Soldiers, Oregon Guard leaders, and officials in Washington, D.C.

"We have bipartisan support from both the U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer and U.S. Senator Gordon Smith," Faler said in a May 2008 interview with the Oregon Sentinel.

The benefit has been several-fold for all parties involved. The handful of interpreters who have relocated to the United States as a result of Checkpoint One's efforts were able to assist Oregon Guardsmen who are training for their own deployments to the Middle East.
In April 2008, several Iraqi interpreters assisted members of the Oregon Army National Guard's 41st Brigade Combat Team's Bravo Company during a training exercise held at the Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue training facility in Tualatin, Ore. There, the Iraqis served as interpreters for the realistic traning scenarios organized by Brigade leadership.

"Using local nationals is not brand new to the Army," Faler said. "But these guys are not actors. They're the real deal."

Aside from real-world training afforded Oregon's Soldiers, the relationships have bridged the cultural gaps between Iraqis and Oregonians.

"Understanding culture is extremely important for these Soldiers," Said one Soldier who helped organize the 2008 training exercise.
For Faler and the Checkpoint One Foundation, helping Iraqis and Afghanistanis goes beyond saving his friends.
"I'm repaying a debt," Faler said. "These interpreters risk everything for us. I'll do anything to help them."

If you are interested in more information from Checkpoint One, or to become involved in the effort to help Iraqi or Afghanistani citizens, please visit http://www.cponefoundation.org/, or contact the foundation at 503-871-3238.

To read the Jan. 10, 2009 article by Anna King of American Public Media's Weekend America website, go here.

Posted by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Oregon Military Department New Media Manager

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