California National Guard Said to Have Cheated Veterans Who Worked as Interpreters, Failed to Pay Promised Bonuses

US Army Oath conducted in field. (Photo: Public Domain)

US Army Oath conducted in field. (Photo: Public Domain)

November 14, 2016

Written by Lorra B.

The California National Guard finds itself in the news once again as those enlisted by them come forward with accusations of non-payment.

Last month the California National Guard was in the hot seat when the Pentagon demanded repayment of reenlistment bonuses they gave to almost 10,000 National Guard soldiers as incentive during the height of the Afghanistan and Iraq war 10 years ago.

Now, others are coming forward with accusations of more California National Guard wrongdoings.

In frantic need of interpreters to go with troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, the California National Guard also guaranteed enlistment bonuses to “dozens of Arabic, Dari and Pashto speakers” of up to $20,000 each, according to Tribune News Service. It was called the 09 Lima program.

The Pentagon was so desperate for interpreters in battle that they were utilized whether they were or were not qualified or even if they were in failing health. Now many are complaining of combat injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder and that they can’t work.

As far as the interpreters are concerned, the Pentagon broke their commitments.

Khatchig Khatchadourian, an Arabic interpreter from Los Angeles, stated, “As far as I know, it’s only the interpreters who didn’t get paid. They think we’re stupid because we are immigrants.” The California Guard has not paid Khatchandourian the remaining $10,000 he says is owed him.

According to Col. Peter Cross, a spokesperson, there are 44 interpreters affected by this non-payment.

In an email Cross wrote, “The complexity arose in cases where neither the soldier nor the Guard could locate a copy of any agreement, although work was done by the soldier that likely would have given rise to a bonus payment.”

The Pentagon needed these interpreters in the field as soldiers so that they could not quit or refuse to go into dangerous situations like contractors could. “To meet that goal, the Pentagon in 2006 ramped up the 09 Lima program. It offered special bonuses, eased enlistment standards and even accelerated U.S. citizenship applications for immigrants who agreed to join the Army,” reports Tribune News Service.

Many who were promised bonus, however, were told they were no longer eligible because they had failed some aspect of required recruitment testing, such as the aptitude test or the physical fitness test. Yet, these soldiers were sent to war and performed their duties…they did their time.

The California National Guard and the Pentagon made promises to brave soldiers who put their lives on the line and then ripped then away. The country and the world are watching. If we have no integrity within our military where does this leave us as a country?

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Written by Lorra B.