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Megaphone Was Prime Weapon For Army’s Arabic Speakers

February 28, 1991

WITH THE 101ST AIRBORNE DIVISION IN IRAQ (AP) _ Spec. Michael Landolfi’s main weapon wasn’t an M-16. It was a megaphone.

He was one of dozens of Arabic speakers in the 101st Airborne Division that played a key role in the allied ground attack against Iraq.

A recent graduate of a 63-week training course at the Defense Language Institute in Monterrey, Calif., Landolfi spent only three weeks at the 101st Airborne’s headquarters in Fort Campbell, Ky., before being rushed to the front.

″Where these guys go, I go,″ Landolfi said as his battalion roared into Iraq on Tuesday in the longest helicopter-borne air assault in military history.

In one attack, the 20-year-old from Santa Rosa, Calif., helped convince more than 450 Iraqi soldiers to give themselves up. Speaking from an Apache helicopter gunship, the gangly, bespectacled soldier told the forces they would be slaughtered if they didn’t give up.

″They got the point,″ he said.

The 101st Airborne has about 100 men like Landolfi, part of an attempt by the U.S. Army to use finesse, intelligence work and tactics to complement brute strength.

Like many of his comrades, Landolfi’s road to the army stemmed from a love of languages.

When he was a sophomore in high scool, Landolfi took a trip to the famed military language school in Monterrey to attend a class in Russian, one of his favorite subjects.

″In five minutes, the instructor taught us 200 words, more than I had learned in a month at high school,″ Landolfi said.‴From then on, I knew I wanted to attend that school.″

A couple of years later, he enrolled in the Army and they sent him to the school. After six months in the desert, Landolfi says he is proud to be an infantryman.

″It’s a pretty horrible life, but at least now I think I deserve to wear the uniform,″ he said.

The young man’s main interest remains locked on languages. After improving his Russian, he plans to start on Chinese.

″If I can conquer that then I’ll try Navajo,″ he said. ″It’s interesting because it has no writing system.″

On Tuesday night, forward troops attacking an Iraqi installation just south of the Euphrates River thought they saw civilians inside.

″The linguist, send the linguist 3/8,″ barked a voice on the other end of the radio.

Landolfi dropped his pack, slung his M-16 over one shoulder and his megaphone over the other. Accompanied by two snipers, he sneaked toward the Iraqi lines.

″You are facing overwhelming force from the U.S. Army,″ he said over the megaphone.

Silence followed, and he repeated the call.

Dogs began to bay. Troops entering a building determined that it had been a false call - no civilians were around. The barking continued.

″I guess I’m not too persuasive with canines,″ he said.

-DS-02-28-91 1404EST

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