By Donald Ross, National Training Center/Fort IrwinMay 27, 2009
The 51st TICO (Translator Interpreter Company)
What is it'
The 51st TICO (Translator Interpreter Company) located at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., is currently the only unit of its' type in the Army. Manned by Soldiers with the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) 09L (0 9 Lima), the mission of the 51st TICO is to: prepare and deploy 09L Soldiers as individuals or small groups to provide "native heritage" translation, interpretation, and cultural advice to Army, Joint, special operations forces, and select inter-agency organizations.
The 51st TICO is assigned to the Regimental Support Squadron (RSS) of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR), the most capable and lethal combined arms opposing force (OPFOR) in the world; populating the "box" with host nation (Iraqi of Afghani) military, security forces, civil leadership, population and insurgents.
Contrary to the "OPFOR" mission of the 11th ACR, the 51st TICO's Soldiers are "BLUEFOR" only. These 09L's are attached directly to the rotational training units where they provide the same language skills and cultural awareness as they do when deployed.
What has the Army done'
The 09L Interpreter/Translator program was launched in 2003 when the Army was tasked by the office of the secretary of defense to establish a pilot program that focused on recruiting native and heritage speakers of Arabic, Dari and Pushtu to meet critical foreign language requirements.
The 09L training path includes nine weeks of basic combat training (BCT), followed by six weeks of advanced individual training (AIT). Many 09L AIT classes receive critical training at the National Training Center, the only installation with active component 09L positions.
While not yet fully manned, the 51st TICO will eventually include 152 speakers of 14 target languages and dialects of Arabic, Farsi, Pashtu, Kurdish, Dari and Farsi.
Why is this important to the Army'
At the National Training Center, 100 percent of the 09L's are in direct support to the war on terror either providing cultural and language training to rotational BCT's, sister services, special operations forces, or to deployed forces. The 51st TICO has already supported nine National Training Center rotations and currently have 21 Soldiers deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF).
The 09L's of the 51st TICO bring to the Army , a real-life familiarity with the nuances of a language, the dialects and the culture which even school-trained linguists often cannot provide. A 09L not only can interpret and translate but can recognize differences in body language, gestures and atmospherics that would indicate to his/her command whether the environment is completely safe.
Army Language Program
09L Interpreter/Translator Program