The program that teaches English to Arabic-speaking individuals who want to become translator/interpreter Soldiers has been streamlined and moved to Fort Jackson.
English as a Second Language, which was previously taught at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, is the first step for those who speak Arabic in becoming an interpreter for the Army. A ceremony was held Thursday welcoming the program to the installation and to the 187th Ordnance Battalion.
Lt. Col. Kerry MacIntyre, commander of the 187th Ord. Bn., said the move will help get Arabic translators to the field sooner as well as provide a "One Stop Shop" for Soldiers training to become translators.
Previously, those who aspired to become Arabic translators first reported to initial processing at Fort Sill, Okla. Then they traveled to Lackland Air Force Base where they enrolled in a two-week English as a Second Language course.
After becoming proficient in English, they then shipped to Fort Jackson for Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training through the interpreter/translator course.
"Bringing the Air Force program here to Fort Jackson really streamlines the process and shortens the training time for these Soldiers," said Clayton Leishman, ESL program manager. "This is the start of something I hope will be very successful."
The ESL program is for Arabic, Dari and Pashto speaking individuals. Applicants must demonstrate language proficiency in both the target language and English. Soldiers must achieve an 80 English Comprehension Level score and an Oral Proficiency Interview of 2/2 to move on to BCT and their military occupational specialty.
It is expected to take Soldiers between 11 and 24 weeks to complete the entire process, Leishman said.
"We get all the Soldiers that have not met the necessary English requirements and get them up to speed before Basic Combat Training," Leishman said. "Now that we are at Fort Jackson, there will be a higher turn-around rate."
The move was prompted, in part, by the input of course graduates. Having the ESL course at Fort Jackson is expected to shave two weeks off a Soldier's training.
"Once they graduate here, they go to reception battalion down the road and then to Basic Combat Training," said Capt. Shareefah McCoy, commander, Company E, 187th Ord. Bn. "It cuts two weeks off their schedule. You create some synergies and efficiencies by bringing the whole program here."
During their time in the ESL course, the Soldiers will learn how to march and will participate in physical training.
The Arabic Linguist Pilot Program was implemented in July 2003 and it trains about 70 Soldiers a year. Since the program began, 271 Soldiers have graduated. Soldiers are given six weeks of group-paced instructional time, including a three-day field training exercise. The course is supported by 13 instructors, each with an average of 22 years of interpreter/translator experience.