MONTEREY, Calif. (May 22, 2012) -- Secretary of the Army John McHugh said that language and culture skills are critical for the successful accomplishment of missions overseas today and in the future, during a visit to the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, May 21.

"What we have learned over the last ten years, especially in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, that language skills, also accompanied by a cultural level of understanding and skills, are absolutely critical skills to get a mission done," said McHugh.

McHugh and his staff spent the morning touring DLIFLC and visited two Persian Farsi classrooms where students demonstrated their speaking skills and use of technology for more rapid foreign language acquisition.

Clearly impressed with the variety of technology used in the classroom, from interactive whiteboards to tablet PCs, iPods and iPads, the Secretary said that the learning and teaching methods have changed, and that using technology is "the way of the future."

The Secretary was shown a number of technology exhibits demonstrating online programs which the Institute offers as predeployment materials to service members or sustainment materials for professional linguists.

DLIFLC's mandatory six to eight-hour pre-deployment program called Rapport, and HeadStart2, a longer and more intensive language and culture program, were presented, allowing the Secretary to have glimpse of what troops must accomplish before going to conflict regions. While Rapport exists in Dari and Pashto spoken in Afghanistan, and Iraqi spoken in Iraq, HeadStart2 is available in 18 languages.

"Our sustainment programs touch tens of thousands of linguists, either through direct interaction with our instructors or via online training," said DLIFLC Commandant Col. Danial D. Pick. Faculty demonstrated the Broadband Language Training System, a distance learning program delivered in real-time allowing students to brush up on their language skills learned at DLIFLC and the Global Language Online Support System which offers more than 6,000 lessons available for various levels of learners, in 38 languages.

"We are in 150 or so countries around the world and doing important work each and every day whether we are in the Pacific, or Europe or Asia. We want our Soldiers to have language kills and cultural awareness that will allow them to do that mission better," said McHugh.

Despite the Army's reduction in troop strength due to Department of Defense budget cuts, McHugh said that a smaller future force would have to be "carefully shaped" and the "best of the best retained."

"The relevancy of this program, this initiative, has never been greater," said McHugh of the Institute's mission and the importance of training service members. "As our footprint gets smaller I think that we would expect that those who remain on the ground to be more culturally aware and adept," he said.