Eye On Texas: Reaching Out to Texas’ Middle Eastern Community

Katie Hayes Luke

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This photo, taken in 2009, is part of a larger project exploring the Texas Army National Guard’s outreach into the Middle Eastern community in Central Texas. Set against the backdrop of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military created a new program in 2006 to address its growing need for experts in Arab language and culture. The program recruits members of the Arab immigrant community to employ as translators and interpreters in Iraq and Afghanistan. I followed Sgt. Michael Turk throughout the fall of 2009 on his recruiting excursions.

Aside from advertising in Middle Eastern community newspapers, Turk finds that the best recruitment technique is word of mouth through visits to mosques, religious festivals and Arab community events.

“It really starts in the Arab way,” Turk explains. “You get to know people slowly, take some time, attend events…have a tea, have a coffee, get to know who is running what.”

Turk never speaks directly about the program or asks people to join. His strategy is to establish a personal rapport before subtly introducing the opportunity. This photo documents an outreach activity during which students from the Austin Peace Academy visit Camp Mabry’s Texas Military Forces Museum.

See more of Austin photographer Katie Hayes Luke’s work at katiehayesluke.com.

CALL FOR ENTRIES: Seeking Texas-based documentary photography that captures the strangest state. Please send inquiries to [email protected].

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