Soldiers graduate from Afghan language, culture program
June 15, 2010
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Nearly 300 Fort Carson Soldiers graduated from a seven week Dari and Pashto language class June 11, in advance of their deployment to Afghanistan where they will be expected to help their battalion commanders better interact with the local population.
The intensive language training with native Afghan instructors, organized by the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, began March 8 with students spending four days a week, six hours a day, learning how to read, write, learn tactical vocabulary, and construct sentences.
"In seven weeks you have met COIN and ISAF guidance. You have done a phenomenal job in making this pilot successful," said DLIFLC Assistant Commandant Air Force Col. William Bare, referring to counter-insurgency language proficiency standards set by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
In November, McChrystal wrote a memo requiring that each platoon, or like size organization have at least one leader who speaks about 300 words of Dari and understand the culture in order to better communicate with local Afghans.
At Fort Carson, the training of 249 Dari and 49 Pashto Soldiers indicates that every squad will have a servicemember with some language capability upon deployment to Afghanistan. The "Squad Designated Linguists," as they are called, have in fact learned double the requirement, some students even topping 1,000 vocabulary words.
"The training our Soldiers have gone through will have a direct immediate impact in helping the Afghan National Army understand that we are there to fight with them, for them, and to help the Afghan populace," said Maj. Mike Birmingham, in charge of language training for the 1st Brigade Combat Team.
"I will be a key leader engagement note taker for the battalion commander," said Pfc. Lauren Townsend, of the 1st Special Troop Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, who graduated from the Dari course and says her classmates teased her for having a "perfect" Dari accent. "My commander wants me to work with the interpreters so that they feel like they are a part of the team."
"The key to the success of these Soldiers was really the way we set up the instruction," said Mowafiq Al-Anazi, associate dean of Field Support in the Directorate of Continuing Education at DLIFLC. "They were taught the alphabet, reading and writing, with an emphasis on sentence structure word replacement, meaning that they could learn a simple sentence, then replace the subject or verb and create a new sentence."
In the afternoons, students implemented their knowledge learned in the morning through role plays carried out of specific scenarios they would encounter in Afghanistan.
"I really liked learning how to read and write," said one student. "Firstly, it helped me visualize and remember the vocabulary, and secondly, I will be able to read street signs or graffiti on the walls which may be important in discovering insurgent activities."