On our way back to our operating base today, we came across someone who seemed very distressed about something or other. I, being the one with the best command of the Arabic language (which was really very little command at all) was pressed into the service of translator for our Battalion Commander, who happened to be in our convoy. The Iraqi men we encountered claimed that insurgents had shot at them, and that they had hidden behind a dirt berm to avoid being hit. They showed us a large collection of spent bullet casings in the middle of the one-lane asphalt road.
Our fellow soldiers further down the road were able to track down the suspected insurgents, whom we questioned. I had great fun (or was it trepidation) trying to convey the thoughts of the Battalion Commander and the head of what turned out to be a US-Military-contracted group of Iraqis who were actually a road-repair crew. And their side of the story was that they had been shot at first by the other group.
It turns out that both groups of men mistook the others for insurgents and were simply trying to defend themselves. All in all, no one was hurt, and both parties were very glad that we were there to arbitrate the dispute.
Later on our route we stopped and searched a sedan. We explained to the occupants that several roadside bombs had been found on roads in this area and we were, therefore, searching all vehicles in the area. They were greatful to us for trying to protect them, and were more than happy to have us search theirs and all cars in the area; the insurgents often place explosive devices after dark that do not discriminate between military and civilian vehicles, so many of those living in our area of operations feel threatened by the insurgents, not feeling safe about traveling the roads during hours of darkness.
We may not always be successful, but we're glad to do our best to help bring the Iraqis we serve a life where they can live free of fear.