Overseas Etiquette 101: 5th AR linguists enhance training for deploying units
December 6, 2012
McGREGOR RANGE, N.M. -- The ancient proverb "when in Rome, do as the Romans do," still applies to modern conflict, particularly in counterinsurgency doctrine.
The 5th Armored Brigade's Language Lab, where joint warfighters are trained for deployments, is centered on the concept that success in the battlefield requires a working knowledge of the local environment, language, customs, and even values. These serve as the foundation from which alliances are built, information is gathered, areas are secured, and long-term regional stability is ultimately established.
Operating the Language Lab are Sgt. Makuac Kual and Spc. Malika Mtougui. Joint warfighters training at McGregor Range receive instruction from these two linguists whose deployment experiences enhance their language and cultural expertise.
Kual is a Sudanese-born Soldier who has been mobilized with 5th Armored Brigade since 2010 to support the language and culture mission. He is certified in Arabic and French, and is currently taking classes to certify in Dari.
"Teaching role player and key leader engagements are a lot of fun. Sometimes we do interpreter briefs, like how to use an interpreter," said Kual. "When I am with a captain or lieutenant colonel, I am not that person's rank. I'm just a voice. Leaders and all joint warfighters need to know that, because not all interpreters think the way I do."
Mtougui, originally from Morocco, is certified in multiple Arabic dialects and French. She mobilized with 5th Armored Brigade earlier this year.
"Most questions joint warfighters ask are about how to interact with local women and how to handle the religious material," Mtougui said. "I really enjoy discussing the region's long history of conflict and adaptation."
The linguists have trained more than 4,400 joint warfighters in Arabic, Pashto and/or Dari; almost all of those service members deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Each training block consists of a computer module that utilizes the Tactical Afghan Language Training software or Tactical Iraqi Arabic Language Training and a culture brief.
Capt. Lauren DeHamer, Language Lab officer-in-charge, revamped the lab's baseline presentation to incorporate the latest U.S. Army Forces Command requirements addressing regional information, key religious beliefs, and customs and behaviors.
"I knew we had to offer more than a laundry list of what to do and what not to do; anyone can look at the CIA World Factbook online or State Department Website," Dehamer said. "The linguists provide a context for culture and challenge joint warfighters to think critically."
Prior to every class, Staff Sgt. Casey Hargis, Language Lab noncommissioned officer-in-charge, ensures the linguists specifically tailor the culture brief for the deploying service members by researching their mission, regional location, and length of deployment. This year, Language Lab briefs focused on missions ranging from signal support based in Jordan and Kuwait to detainee operations in Afghanistan.
"Though their footprint may be small, the work of these two Soldiers is critical to the First Army, Division West and 5th Armored Brigade mission," said DeHamer. "They continually share their specialized knowledge to provide joint warfighters with valuable tools and information that will help them return home safely."