ABOARD THE USS RUSHMORE -- For what Marines have invested in the Arab world, one of the most valuable assets is the ability to communicate wherever their journeys may take them.
The Defense Language Institute has equipped the Marines and Sailors of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit with four instructors to help break down existing language and cultural barriers in preparation for Operation Iraqi Freedom. One of these instructors is Matti Khoshaba.
Khoshaba, a DLI instructor aboard USS Rushmore, is originally from Iraq and has been teaching for more than 34 years. He grew up in a household speaking Aramaic and then learned dialects of numerous Arab countries while growing up. He continued his education and earned his bachelor’s in French and English literature, where he then shifted into linguistics.
“I first worked with the Marines when I started with DLI in 1995,” said Khoshaba, who now lives in Salinas, Calif., with his wife. “It’s fun to have the Marines because they want to learn and they are serious. When the Marines get involved it produces fast tangible results with great success. I get motivated by the Marines.”
“He teaches all across the spectrum,” said 2nd Lt. Phillip J. Peacock, 2nd platoon commander for Lima Company, Battalion Landing Team 3/1. “At the end of the first week the Marines were spelling out complex sentences in Arabic.”
In 1991, at the end of the first Gulf War, there was a political uprising in Iraq. Khoshaba’s job was to speak with mass media coming from outside countries. It was from then, he said, he felt he gained a lot of experience.
“Matti is probably the biggest training asset we have on the Rushmore,” said Peacock. “It’s not just speaking the language when communicating with people-- if you don’t have the cultural awareness to where people feel they can tell you something, they’re not going to.”
When Khoshaba teaches, his philosophy goes into detail about cultural issues, which couples with the language to educate the student. He is able to explain the difference between regional dialects.
Since working with DLI, Khoshaba has earned a master’s degree in foreign language, and above all, the respect of his students stationed throughout the Arab world.