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Airman Serves as Linguist in Vietnam

  • Published
  • By Airman1st Class Ryann Holzapfel

A Cannon Airman recently returned from a Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency mission in Vietnam.

Staff Sgt. Joseph Nguyen, a CV-22 flight engineer in the 20th Special Operations Squadron, returned from a 30-day temporary duty assignment providing manual labor and working as a Vietnamese linguist aiding the recovery of missing military personnel.

The DPAA’s mission is to provide the fullest possible accounting for missing personnel to their families and the nation. The organization works under the Secretary of Defense and is an agency organized for the recovery and accounting for service members of any previous conflicts.

Nguyen’s mission was to work alongside a team, closing the gap between language barriers with the host nation to help recover a missing Navy pilot in Thua Thien Hue Province, Vietnam.

“It was interesting because I was born in the states and most linguists were born in Vietnam and then came over to the states.” Nguyen said, “For me, my parents were born there and I was born in the States so I still had ties to Vietnam.”

Nguyen took the Defense Language Proficiency Test for Vietnamese and then applied for the special duty as a linguist for DPAA missions in Vietnam. Once selected for the assignment, Nguyen left for Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, for initial processing and mission briefing.

Once in Vietnam, day-to-day activities included acting as a liaison between team members and Vietnamese government officials, translating for team members and locals and working with the team excavating at the designated dig site.  

“For my mission we ended up moving 550 square meters of dirt” said Nguyen, “If we do find them then just the gratification from the job that you find something, the family gets closure, and you get to bring them back after 40 plus years that would complete the entire mission”