JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
Being on a deployment is an extremely taxing job. Having longer hours while being away from family and friends is enough to make anyone feel exhausted. Senior Airman Jibiliya Ann is the exception.
Ann, a passenger service representative assigned to the 437th Aerial Port Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, helped translate for refugees coming to the US as a part of Operation Allies Refuge earlier this year.
“I saw the faces of these people the first day and thought, wow. All I need to do right now is focus on helping them.”
After just shy of two years in the military, Ann found herself with last minute orders and had to go to Joint Base McGuire in support of OAR. Upon arrival, she was assigned to help with supplies and was moved around to four different sections before realizing she could be a tremendous help in a unique way.
“After a while in the village, I told my supervisor ‘I can understand what these people are saying,’” said Ann. “A guest started talking to me in Urdu and I started speaking back to her. I wasn’t aware of which other countries spoke it until I googled it.”
Before moving to the states three years ago, Ann was born in India and spent most of her childhood in Kuwait. She grew up in a military family, affording her the opportunity to travel.
After a few weeks people around the village started to recognize Ann as a friendly face and translator.
“They didn’t have a lot of female translators and I was always bouncing around all over the place, which was more helpful to them in some cases.”
Once it was known that Ann was able to help, she was often called to drive two hours to a hospital to translate between doctors and patients. While helping with medical interactions were a huge help, Ann found she had the most impact with the children. It’s not long ago she was in their shoes.
“I feel so happy for these kids to finally be able to live their dream and have their voice heard. They have so much opportunity and freedom compared to where they came from,” Ann said. She advised them to stay grounded to where they came from, but aim higher for their future. One little girl told Ann she wanted to be a doctor and Ann replied emphatically “Yes! You absolutely have to be a doctor!” Ann was full of advice for the newcomers but they also helped her realize something for herself.
“They reminded me where I came from and that I need to be thankful for everything that is happening around me; to not be greedy. It made me realize that I need to be thankful for what I have right now.”
Between working her normal duties, translating, driving to and from hospitals, and connecting with the evacuees Ann was also taking classes and managing to balance it all with a smile on her face.
“I’m just happy I was able to be a part of their life. It was our faces they saw when they got here to a new country. I feel like I played a huge part and I’m just proud I had the opportunity to do that.”