In October of 2010, the Army took a huge new step with language and culture training: a six-to-eight hour online course became mandatory for all Soldiers, reservists and Department of the Army civilians before they deployed.

Now, as the first Soldiers affected by the executive order are preparing to deploy, officials are waiting to see what impact this knowledge has downrange. But with the deadline for completion approaching - the order applies to active-component units with "latest arrival dates" starting April 1 - getting the word out to troops has been a challenge.

"It's the very first time the Army has come out with standards (for language training)," Director of Joint Base Lewis-McChord's Regional Training Center Yvonne Pawelek said, calling the step "revolutionary."

Today's Soldiers are exposed to local people in deployment theaters in a way they never have been before, according to Pawelek. Because of that they require more knowledge of the places they are going and the people in them, but until recently additional training was just a suggestion.

"The Army does not have adequate, consistent, and coherent culture and foreign language pre-deployment training standards for the (General Purpose Force)," last year's execution order on training standards said. "The existing guidance is inadequate to meet requirements established by COMISAF."

To accommodate Soldiers who may not have access to in-person training on their installations, the EXORD requires most Soldiers to take an online language and culture course called the Rapport Program, developed by the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center at Presidio-of-Monterey. Calif.

Each platoon or like-sized unit must have a language-enabled Soldier who has taken either the 100-hour online HeadStart program or a 16-week course offered at many installations.
Both courses are designed for non-linguists, so that all Soldiers will know basic greetings and customs in a situation where there are never enough linguists and no time to learn on the fly.
"Once you get to Afghanistan, you don't have time for anything else but doing your job," said Brian Lamar, DLIFLC spokesman and former Soldier who deployed to Afghanistan.

These programs are only part of the Army's new emphasis on the human side of today's operational environments. Since 9/11, the Army has recognized an increased need for language and culture training, according to Lamar.

"I'd say that that is a shift in the mentality of the command," Lamar said.
All Soldiers preparing to deploy can access the Rapport Program via the Army Knowledge Online portal. Training for language-enabled Soldiers in the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division will begin in May.

For more information, check out this Stand-To! article at http://www.army.mil/standto/archive/2010/11/09/ or DLIFLC's Language Enabled Soldiers video at http://www.youtube.com/watch'v=YZjxCtLaSQI.

Marisa Petrich: marisa.petrich @us.army.mil

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16