Two teams of seven linguists from U.S. Army South and 470th Military Intelligence Brigade competed at the 6th annual Polyglot Games at the Salt Palace Convention Center, here, Feb. 3, 2024.
The Polyglot Games, hosted by the 300th Military Intelligence Brigade, is the premiere language competition of the Department of Defense and designed to provide linguists with high-quality training that tests linguistic capabilities in a simulated operational environment.
“Linguists will get a chance to test their skills against others and see how their combined technical abilities deliver actionable intelligence to battlefield commanders,” explained Maurice Lee, the U.S. Army South Command Language Program Manager. “300th MI excelled at making the competition realistic and relevant to the competitors.”
The competition itself contained a series of events designed to mimic real-world linguistic challenges. From signals intelligence to open-source intelligence, linguists faced a diverse array of tasks reflecting the multifaceted demands of their roles. The languages featured in the competition spanned a wide spectrum of global linguistic needs, reflecting the diverse nature of modern military operations. Some of the languages included were Korean, Russian, French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese-Mandarin, and Persian-Farsi.
"This competition brought together teams of linguists who know all different languages," said Spc. Sheridan Guevara, a Levantine Arabic cryptologic linguist and multi-disciplinary language analyst assigned to U.S. Army South. "It gave a good representation of how all linguists contribute to the mission and are vital to it, regardless of the language they know."
Under the guidance of seasoned mentors and coaches, these junior linguists underwent rigorous training and preparation to refine their language skills and deepen their cultural understanding. Preparation for the competition demanded unwavering dedication.
Guevara stressed the importance of immersion in language and current affairs, echoing the sentiments of many participants who engaged in rigorous training routines to sharpen their linguistic and analytical skills.
"Preparing for this event was similar to preparing to take the Defense Language Proficiency Test such as listening to news, reading articles and news, and reviewing vocabulary," he explained.
Lee underscored the significance of the event, marking a historic moment for U.S. Army South as they made their inaugural appearance at the games. Recognizing the unique challenges posed by the competition, linguists from the 470th Military Intelligence Brigade joined forces with Army South, enriching the diversity of skills within the team.
“Most of ARSOUTH’s linguists are foreign affairs officers, so we had to supplement the team with linguists from the 470th because the games consist of intelligence tasks,” said Lee.
Their participation in the Polyglot Games not only highlighted their individual talents but also exemplified the U.S. Army South's commitment to linguistic proficiency and cross-cultural competency in today's complex operational environments.
Spc. Monica Kim, a Russian and Chinese multi-discipline language analyst assigned to the 717th Military Intelligence Battalion, 470th Military Intelligence Brigade, expressed her appreciation for the opportunity to join the team.
"I gained deeper insights into intelligence operations and fostering collaboration with fellow linguists," says Kim.
As they embarked on this remarkable venture, the competitors carried with them not only the pride of representing their unit but also the broader mission of promoting linguistic diversity and understanding in an increasingly interconnected world.
Despite stiff competition, U.S. Army South finished 13th out of 30, with the 470th MI BDE securing the 16th position.
Lee expressed pride in the performance of the teams, noting the impressive accomplishment in a highly competitive field.
“The achievement of our young Soldiers securing top 20 positions is commendable, especially given the formidable competition. One of our Soldiers even competed against his AIT instructor,” said Lee. “Looking ahead, we are training and setting sights on breaking into the top 10 next year!”