Actors helping teach Marines about people
April 10,2006

Sheik Abdul Aljaber believes his work as an actor saves lives.

Speaking through an interpreter, Aljaber explained why he participates in war scenarios as one of nine Iraqi nationals working for Strategic Operations. The San Diego based production company specializes in providing authentic training scenarios to military troops.

“I want to teach them how to go through the houses, how to search the houses, to show respect for the mosque and for my people,” he said. “Our people support our mission because they know that we are working to save lives.”

Aljaber and several of the other actors said they believe providing troops with authentic training in culture can save both American and Iraqi lives.

As a sheik, Aljaber has the respect of the villagers, comparable — depending on the size of the village — to a mayor or a governor in the United States.

“The people look up to the sheik,” he said. “The people always show respect to the sheik and follow his rule.”

Aljaber’s interpreter, Wael Saadoun, said he moved to California in 2003, before the war in Iraq began.

“The people in Iraq feel good about what we do,” he said. “When they see the Americans respect us then they respect the Americans.”

Having the troops go through an authenticly recreated village can help them prepare for the new culture, he said.

“They need to see the Iraqi people, know how they are when they are happy, when they are sad,” Saadoun said. “They have to know they cannot touch the women or hurt the sheik.”

Women, two of them daughters of Aljaber, also participated in the military exercise Sunday.

“We are not helping the Americans fight our people,” Dina Aljaber said. “We are here to help the Marines so they will not kill our people. We help them understand our culture. And we help them so that there are not so many civilian casualties.”

Another actor with experience in TV said it was just as important for the Americans to learn that not all Iraqi people are bad.

“They have to learn the differences,” James Arney of Mississippi said.

Contact staff writer Diane Mouskourie at or 353-1171, Ext. 235.