Balreet Kaur Khaira, US Army
Balreet Kaur Khaira, US Army

SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — Balreet Kaur Khaira, a U.S. Army staffer, serves as an asset to the armed forces of more than one nation — her skills are utilized most during joint military actions in the regions of Iraq, Afghanistan and India.

Her expertise in the languages of Hindi and Urdu have made Khaira the chief interpreter between U.S. and Indian forces, and even with the locals.

More than 400 U.S. Army personnel and the Congo Brigade of the Indian Army are getting familiar with each other’s organisational structure, weapons, equipment and tactical drills at the 12th edition of ‘Yudh Abayas,’ the joint military exercise between the forces at Chaubatia in Uttarakhand.

In addition to her roles as a staffer, Khaira doubles up as an interpreter to translate messages between U.S. and India soldiers. Troops from either side turn to her whenever there might be a communication breakdown. Born in Moga in Punjab, and raised in Chandigarh, the 27-year-old’s fluency in Urdu came handy during her posting in strife-torn Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I know Hindi and Urdu, and that helped me a lot in Afghanistan. I was able to connect with the locals and they too were happy to communicate,” she said.

Climbing through the ranks of the U.S. military has been quite the journey for Khaira, whose sister, Jasleen, also works alongside her as a “cultural diplomat.” She had the odds stacked against her twice, being a woman and being Indian, she said.

“Then there were only few Indians working in the U.S. force (when I joined in 2004). Being a woman, it was not easy to adjust.”

Her family moved to the U.S. a week before the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the two World Trade Centres in New York. Balreet was 14 and Jasleen 12 then.

“My father is in port business and kept on moving to different countries before deciding to finally settle down in the US. We reached America a week before 9/11. Post the attack, Indians and Sikhs in particular faced lots of issues,” she said.

She joined the U.S. Army’s medical wing at the age of 16 as a soldier and later moved to the infantry division. Jasleen followed her sister’s footsteps. Over the years, Khaira has been promoted to the rank of staffer.