Military interpreters and translators have an important role in the U.S. Marine Corps, helping troops communicate with people in foreign countries. The Marine Corps job of translator includes duties such as conducting language interpretation activities that generally are not related to intelligence gathering.
The Marine Corps considers the job a free military occupational specialty (FMOS), meaning any Marine can apply for it, but the individual must demonstrate proficiency in the language in question. The Marine Corps categorizes this job as MOS 2799, and it is open to any Marine ranking from private through master gunnery sergeant.
Duties of Marine Corps Interpreters and Translators
As the job title suggests, it's up to these Marines to accurately translate foreign languages into English and vice versa in order to further Marine Corps missions in foreign territories. This may include statements made by participants in conferences, working parties, legal proceedings, and similar activities.
They must also interview friendly non-English speaking civilians such as police, clergymen, and other citizens to obtain information of military value.
These Marines are responsible for determining whether they can trust the person providing the information and their interpretation of it. They write reports to that effect for use by unit commander and for other troops.
In addition, they translate written, non-technical material and establish libraries of language reference materials, including glossaries of military terms and foreign language dictionaries. They may also provide interpreter support to civil affairs officers.
These Marines generally do not handle translation or interpretation duties concerning enemy combatants or other hostile people. On some occasions, these interpreters may be called upon to assist with interrogations, but they are always under the supervision of counterintelligence specialists.
Qualifying as a Military Translator/Interpreter
Since this is a free MOS and not a primary one, there isn't a specific score required on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) tests. However, it's unlikely you'll be appointed to this job without some foreign language proficiency.
The Marine Corps will test your proficiency and may provide some additional language training depending on their needs.
The Marine Corps and other branches of the U.S. Armed Forces may consider some foreign languages more valuable than others. For example, the many dialects of Arabic, the languages of central Asia, Spanish, and Pashto have become top priorities in recent years.
Careers for Military Translators
During their military career, translators build excellent writing and communications skills that translate well in a variety of civilian settings, such as courtrooms, hospitals, or corporations. A translator could move into a career of translating in a civilian capacity, or they could take on other roles that need their skills, like community relations or intelligence gathering.
How much you might get paid depends heavily on the role, your experience, and whether you would be working in the public or private sector, but a 2017 report found that the median salary for interpreters and translators was $47,190.
Your job description would vary greatly depending on what role you took, but a recent job listing posted by a defense contractor shows what you might be asked to do. The job listing states that a translator fluent in Arabic was needed to support a Department of Defense customer in the National Capital Region and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The candidate would need to provide interpretation, translation, and transcription in helping defense counsels with interviewing detainees and witnesses for case preparation.