In collaboration with the Army's global mission, Army linguists hone their skills by translating, interpreting and speaking some of the world's most diverse languages to support battlefield commanders worldwide. Cryptologic linguists maintain the Military Occupational Specialty, 35P; their role in identifying and analyzing foreign communications is crucial as the nation's security depends largely on information that originates in foreign languages.
An excerpt from the 2009 Army Culture and Foreign Language Strategy validates the importance of foreign language and cultural awareness to Soldiers, saying, "Battlefield lessons learned have demonstrated that language proficiency and understanding of foreign culture are vital enablers for full spectrum operations. Today's full spectrum operations require adaptable foreign language and cultural capabilities to be fully successful."
The Army manages at least two linguist MOSs -- 09L, known as an interpreter/translator, and 35P, which resides in the Army's military intelligence community. However, all Soldiers outside of those specialties can earn foreign language proficiency pay for maintaining fluency in a designated foreign language. The criticality of designated languages can influence how much a Soldier earns in monthly bonuses.
Those Soldiers who enter the Army in a linguist program are not required be fluent in a language to eventually become an Army linguist. The Defense Department's Defense Language Institute at Presidio of Monterey, Calif., will teach Soldiers the standards necessary to achieve a specific language specialty. The school offers training in several different languages, including Tagalog, Indonesian, Arabic, Chinese Mandarin, Persian Farsi, Korean, and Pashto. Once graduating from their Advanced Individual Training, Soldiers at DLI can be in courses between 26-64 weeks long. In addition to the language proficiency, students have an opportunity to learn about the history, culture and people who speak that language.
Using a test known as the Defense Language Aptitude Battery, the Army evaluates Soldiers' aptitude to learn a language. The test's score determines a potential student's capability to learn foreign languages. The higher the score, the more difficult a language they qualify to learn.
Spc. Joshua Knicely, of B Company, 163rd Military Intelligence Battalion, 504th Military Intelligence Brigade, is a Soldier who applied himself to learn the Chinese Mandarin language. Knicely said he failed the Defense Language Proficiency Test the first time because he struggled with the test's listening portion.
"It was the hardest thing to overcome thus far," Knicely said.
Nevertheless, he eventually overcame it to become proficient and an asset to his battalion.
1st Sgt. Marquez A. Bizzle, of B Company, 163rd Military Intelligence Battalion, 504th Military Intelligence Brigade, spoke highly of the linguist MOS as a whole, saying they are dedicated soldiers and that the linguists are an essential part of mission success.
If a Soldier already speaks a foreign language, the basic proficiency for the known language is a score of 2/2 or better on the Defense Language Proficiency Test. If there is no DLPT available for a given language, an Oral Proficiency Interview is scheduled through the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center.
Spc. Kihwan Shin, of A Company, 163rd Military Intelligence Battalion, 504th Military Intelligence Brigade, and native of South Korea, often speaks his native Korean language to support the Army. As a cryptologic linguist, Shin trained to translate documents and information for the military and its allied forces.
Linguists are also paid a Foreign Language Proficiency Bonus as an incentive to maintain and improve their language skills. Linguists are paid up to $400 for each proficient language, and can receive up to $1,000 in extra pay a month. Additionally, they may qualify for an enlistment bonus up to $40,000.
The interpreter/translator MOS is responsible for conducting interpretation and preparing translations between English and foreign languages. Those in the MOS can assist Soldiers with familiarization training cultural awareness and basic phrases, as well as military contracting officers and public affairs support in a foreign country.
Spc. Defar, of A Company, 163rd Military Intelligence Battalion, is a native-born Iraqi who became a U.S. citizen and American Soldier after serving as an interpreter for coalition forces in Iraq and becoming an asset for the military. Due to security concerns for his family, Spc. Defar did not wish his full name to be disclosed.
Becoming a U.S. citizen in February 2014, Defar signed his Army contract four months later to become a 35P, and was assigned to the 504th Military Intelligence Brigade. Gaining experience as an interpreter for U.S. Marines in Iraq, Defar used his Arabic skills to earn the specialty and provide military intelligence support to combatant commanders.
These Soldiers provide high-quality translation, interpretation, and language-related support to combat troops and military personnel in a variety of operations and make the Army's mission and goals on foreign soil possible.