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Cultural and Foreign Language Capabilities

What is it?
Cultural knowledge enables Soldiers and leaders to understand the "how and why" of foreign cultures and the roles that culture, religion, and geography play in military operations. Foreign language capability enhances cross-cultural communication to facilitate mission success. Foreign language capability is expanding beyond the roles of professional linguists to every Soldier and leader. Language can be a survival tool as well as an entree to the cultural capability that is crucial to every Soldier and leader. The human dimension in which the Army must operate as part of today's complex environments necessitates that Soldiers at all levels possess some cultural and foreign language capability. It is no longer sufficient solely for limited numbers of Soldiers in specialized skill sets and units to possess these capabilities.

What has the Army done?
Pre-commissioning programs at the U.S. Military Academy (USMA) and in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) are pursuing a variety of initiatives to enhance cultural and foreign language capabilities. The USMA has established the Center for Language, Culture, and Regional Studies to enhance future leaders' development in these critical areas. Currently all West Point cadets must take a foreign language and USMA has doubled the amount of semester hours required in foreign language study. Additionally, study abroad opportunities have increased 13-fold for West Point cadets since 2005. The ROTC has incorporated several language and cultural initiatives into its program. Under the National Security Education Program, grants have been awarded to 12 universities to establish programs designed to increase cadet skills in languages considered strategic to future defense objectives - eight additional schools will receive grants this year. Additionally, the Officer Accessions Pilot Program provides newly-contracted ROTC cadets a monetary incentive for the study of critical foreign languages.

The Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Culture Center at Fort Huachuca, Arizona develops modular cultural training programs for Army schools. This center also provides mobile training teams (MTTs) that bring cultural training to units prior to their deployment. The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC) at The Presidio of Monterey, California is the primary vehicle for Army foreign language training. The DLIFLC has experienced tremendous growth in Global War on Terror related languages since 2001 - requirements for Arabic speakers have doubled, Farsi tripled, and new language instruction programs in Pashto, Dari, Hindi, and Indonesian have been created where previously they did not exist.

The Foreign Area Officer (FAO) program has made force structure changes to accommodate the global demand for linguistic and regional expertise, including expansions into interagency, Joint Staff, and Army Service Component Commands (ASCCs). Combat Training Centers have completely transformed, using native-speaking role-players to replicate the culture of civilians on the battlefield and enemies in their midst. The Language Enabled Soldier Program at Fort Lewis, Washington trains one soldier from each platoon of a deploying Brigade Combat Team for 10 months in a critical language to support mission essential tasks. The 09L (Interpreter/Translator) Program has been converted from a pilot program to a full Military Occupational Specialty. This program actively recruits native speakers of Arabic, Kurdish, Pashto, Persian-Dari, and Persian-Farsi from heritage communities. More than 700 have been trained and mobilized since FY06.

What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?
Foremost, all leaders and Soldiers must gain an appreciation of other cultures and languages and be able to apply cultural and foreign language knowledge to operational planning and execution. The Army is developing an organized and integrated approach to culture and foreign language education and training. This approach will prescribe career development education and training programs that prepare individuals during pre-deployment, leveraging the vast experience gained from current operational tours and other life-long learning. Finally, the Army will focus pre-deployment MTTs to empower units with the culture and foreign language capability necessary to complete their assigned missions. To accomplish these goals, TRADOC is in the process of developing and staffing language and cultural education and training opportunities targeted at the culture generalist and nonprofessional linguist.

The ROTC and USMA immersion programs will expand. The Army will increase advanced civil schooling opportunities for officers. Gaming technology is also expanding into teaching cultures of foreign lands. The Army is operating several pilot programs at the U.S. Army Intelligence Center to train Soldiers to higher levels of foreign language proficiency and is developing a language familiarization course for Soldiers in the Human Intelligence Collector specialty (35M). Although qualifying Soldiers already receive the Foreign Language Proficiency Bonus (FLPB), the Army is exploring options for providing FLPB to Department of the Army Civilians. The 09L Program is expanding its force structure beyond the Active Component to the Army Reserve and National Guard and is expanding its scope beyond U.S. Central Command to include languages in the U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Africa Command areas of responsibility. The FAO program is planning to expand its positions in ASCCs to provide liaison officers to coalition partners in diverse operating environments. The theater security cooperation division is expected to authorize more FAO positions for increased international engagement. Finally, the Army recognizes that foreign language proficiency is more difficult to develop in adults. Therefore, the Army is exploring "out-of-the-box" initiatives, in partnership with the National Security Education Program and the Department of Education, to support culture and foreign language study in our public schools, K-12.

Why is this important to the Army?
Cross-cultural communication is the key to minimizing conflict. These capabilities provide Soldiers, leaders, and units with an understanding of the diverse cultures that permeate today's operating environments. It is no longer sufficient that such capabilities be limited to Soldiers with specialized skill sets or in specialized units.

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