Marines listen as engineer builds bridges

18 Oct 2000 | Lance Cpl. Allan J. Grdovich

When Sgt. Hugo H. Monroy speaks, everybody listens. That's probably because the Long Island, N.Y. native is one of the few people everybody understands.

Though the Marine serves the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable)'s MEU Service Support Group as a combat engineer, he found himself functioning as a Spanish translator in the MEU's current training operation: NATO Exercise Destined Glory 2000.

Monroy went from translating the workings of sophisticated equipment to Lt. Col. Paul A. Brygider, MSSG-26 Commanding Officer, to negotiating gear trades between lance corporals and Spanish Marines.

Spanish comes natural to Monroy. Born in Colombia, he came to United States when he was seven years old. English came a little harder.

"After living here for about a year, I learned English mainly because my mother wouldn't speak to me in Spanish or let me watch any Spanish television," said Monroy whose family now lives in New York.

Monroy's mother also sparked his interest in the military.

"My whole life my mother always instilled discipline in me, and I liked that. Out of all the services the Marine Corps had the best discipline and the most respect. That's why I chose the Corps," said Monroy.

The Corps hasn't let him down. His job as an engineer has taken him places where his fluent English and Spanish were a valuable benefit. He has used his bilingual capabilities in Marine Corps training operations in Puerto Rico, Spain and more recently, Turkey via Destined Glory.

Monroy said he enjoys opportunities like the one offered in Turkey.

"Being a translator between the Spanish and the American troops during the exercise taught me a lot of things. We have most of the equipment they have, but there are some things they have that are different and interesting," Monroy said.

Specifically, he pointed to his job as an engineer, where he had a chance to learn about Spanish mine detectors.

"The Spanish use a German-made mine detector most of us have never seen before, and when we had a chance to learn about it we found out what an awesome tool it was," Monroy said.

Although he said he loves being an engineer, he believes his role as a translator is also important.

The Marine Corps agrees. Service members fluent in more than one language can take the Department of Defense Language Proficiency Test and become eligible for extra pay. Monroy said he would apply.

"I want to get the most out of being Marine," he said.