ODESSA, Ukraine — Chief Cryptologic Technician (interpretative) Dimtry Sokol is a Navy interpreter who is fluent in Ukrainian and Russian and has been providing linguist support all over the world as of July 22.
Sokol’s most recent deployment is in support of exercise Sea Breeze 2010 in Odessa, Ukraine, which is an annual joint exercise with the intent of strengthening relationships between allied countries while improving maritime tactics and skills.
This may seem like business as usual for Sokol, but behind this exercise is a story of his past and aspirations for a better life.
Almost 17 years ago Sokol, then a 19-year-old Ukrainian citizen, stood nervously with his family at the Ukrainian Airport anxiously awaiting his flight to his new home in the United States, carrying only three bags containing the remnants of his old life in his native country.
He and his family, like so many other immigrants in the past, dreamed of a better life filled with opportunities in America. Naturally as a young man Sokol had some mixed feelings about this new life and what was to come.
“At this point in my life Ukraine was all I knew, I liked the idea of a new life but it was very scary for me,” said Sokol.
Battling the hardships of life in a new country, most notably the language difference, Sokol did what he could to get by. After trying every job from a pizza deliveryman to laundry services, nothing quite worked out, so Sokol decided to give the U.S. Navy a shot.
“Honestly I only enlisted because I was running out of job options and figured the military would be a good opportunity," he said.
Starting his Navy career as a Seabee, Sokol felt as though he could be more of an asset by utilizing his Ukranian heiratage and language skill set to provide a better service for the Navy.
“After a few years of being a Seabee I was able to cross rate to CTIC which is something that I originally wanted to do but couldn’t at the time,” said Sokol.
It was at about his 10-year mark when he decided that the Navy was the career for him. Sokol said how at that point in his life the Navy had given him everything and he felt that he owed it to the Navy to serve 10 more years out of appreciation.
With his Ukrainian background he was an ideal candidate to become a Navy interpreter for the Russian and Ukrainian languages.
“I was able to bypass the one year training course because I scored high enough on the language test,” said Sokol
In 1997 Sokol finally became an American citizen. Right before one of his deployment the naturalization process was expedited for him by the governor of Louisiana since his date of becoming a citizen would have taken place while under way.
Sokol spoke about how that day was really special to him because he was now a citizen of his new country that he had been living in for the past decade.
Now, almost two decades later, Sokol has the honor of coming back to the land of his ancestors to be an interpreter for Sea Breeze.
Sokol plays a vital part in an exercise that has more than 1,600 service members from 12 different nations participating in land, air and sea operations.
“For Sea Breeze, I am the chief of 8 linguists in support of this exercise to provide English support and communication between top-level naval officials as well as the exercise commanders,” said Sokol
During the exercise, Sokol and his team have interpreted 17 media interviews, translated over 800 slides for daily commander update briefs, and frequently helped services members communicate during daily operations throughout the entire evolution.
Working shoulder to shoulder with both his American and Ukrainian brothers and sisters, Sokol is using his knowledge and experience to better both the country he now calls home and the country he once was a citizen of.