CAMP MURRAY, Wash. - A new Russian language course provided by the Washington National Guard's Counterdrug Program helps law enforcement officers interact with the Russian-speaking community to deter, interdict and counteract drug activity.

The Russian Language Survival Guide for Law Enforcement is available through the Western Regional Counterdrug Training Center on Camp Murray.

"Students are taught a foundation of the Russian language upon which to build for future use," said Staff Sgt. Kurt Erickson, course instructor and Russian linguist with the 341st Military Intelligence Battalion. "They will also leave the course with a greater understanding of Russian-speaking culture and societal norms."

That increased proficiency can be helpful in areas of the country like the Puget Sound region, with more than 16,000 Russian-born people.

Kirill Shamin, assistant federal security director -- law enforcement and Army Reserve Soldier, attended a course and took the Defense Language Proficiency Test for the first time since 1992. He improved his score from a 2/2 -- able to use the language in a professional environment only -- to 3/3 -- able to converse with native speakers in most settings easily.

"The benefits of improving your score can be a significant increase in special language pay, in this case almost doubling," said Sgt. Sharon Gold, command language program manager for the Washington National Guard. "It creates an incentive to find continued learning avenues, like this course, if you are a law enforcement officer and reserve component service member."

The language skills are coupled with practical scenarios involving drug-related traffic stops, smuggling interdictions and organized crime syndicate analysis to provide the student with a Russian language survival guide for law enforcement operations.

Understanding cultural differences can enhance law enforcement's ability to help communities with a lot of Russian-born people and their families. A recent measles outbreak was partially a result of such a community in southern Washington, where Russian-born families reside. They are traditionally resistant to government requirements, stemming from their mistrust of government in Russian. Being able to speak to these communities in their language is necessary to improve community and government relations.