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Comptroller Airman serves as interpreter

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kristine M. Gruwell
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Not all Airmen are pulled from their Air Force specialty to support operations, but U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Murad Babatov, 19th Comptroller Squadron special actions technician, was selected as an interpreter for Clear Sky 2018, NATO’s largest exercise in four years, due to of his fluency in Russian and Ukrainian.

Babatov emigrated from Russia to the United States March 6, 2013 to be with his wife and newborn son. Soon after, he decided to trade in his civilian career as an electrical engineer to serve in the U.S. Air Force as a financial management comptroller. His goal, however, was to use his background to serve the United States in foreign affairs.

“I didn’t want to be a linguist who sits in a corner translating videos,” Babatov said. “I always wanted to work with the people face-to-face in foreign affairs. The exercise presented that opportunity, so I gladly took it.”

His skillset landed him a unique opportunity to be on a team of approximately 60 interpreters spread out among the exercise to translate between U.S. forces and the allied forces they were working with.

Babatov worked with maintainers, engineers and command post controllers. He assisted in communicating when flights would come in and take off, explaining different pieces of machinery, oil tests and overall lab procedures.

Not only did he use his fluency in three languages to support the exercise, he used his background in electric engineering to give advice to players in the exercise as well.

“The best part was being able to utilize the resources I have to help the Air Force,” Babatov said. “I was able to translate information for people in labs that a regular interpreter without my background wouldn’t have been able to.”

Even after hours, Babatov’s skills were used to take care of his fellow Airmen. He went with others when they explored Ukraine to assist them ordering food and purchasing items. Regardless of the set duty hours, Babatov took it upon himself to never be off duty in order to better the experience for his wingmen in a foreign country.

Despite being expected to accomplish a new mission, Babatov realized he had the tools to give beyond the expectations of an interpreter.

“I felt like I was part of something bigger,” Babatov said. “I knew I helped do something on the scale of creating a relationship with another country. It was our job as interpreters to make sure the Ukrainian air force saw us in the right light and vice versa. Working with people of all ranks and backgrounds helped me understand the mission at every level, and now I utilize that here.”