When the Marines meet Iraqis, at least one Marine will be able to speak their language.
Cpl. Joseph Kelada, a reservist and Tampa native, learned Arabic from his parents who came to the United States from Egypt in the early 1970s.
"I overheard my parents all my life," said Kelada, 25, a real estate agent and mortgage broker. "But I tried not to learn it."
His mother gave him formal Arabic lessons before he left home. She wanted him to be prepared for any eventuality, as she had heard tales of Saddam Hussein's cruelty. She told her son they had a saying, "When you go on a picnic with Saddam Hussein, you don't come back."
Kelada now has an ear for the language and is able to detect different Arabic dialects.
"It's like the difference between Texans and people in New Jersey," he said.
Kelada has coached other Marines in basic phrases to use when speaking to captured Iraqi soldiers.