News: Patriot soldiers learn critical language skills
Story by Staff Sgt. Kulani Lakanaria
FORT POLK, La. - The LTC has sharpened the language and cultural skills of many Patriot soldiers over the last few months; arming those soldiers with invaluable skills to share with their units and help aid Patriot soldiers in navigating the cultural environment.
For the past few months the old 4th Brigade, 10th Mountain Division’s headquarters building has been the home to the Defense Language Institute’s Pashto and Dari Afghanistan and Pakistan Language Training Course, or simply the LTC for short.
The LTC has sharpened the language and cultural skills of many Patriot Soldiers over the last few months; arming those soldiers with invaluable skills to share with their units and help aid Patriot soldiers in navigating the cultural environment.
“Back in 2009 the commander of ISAF [International Security Assistance Forces Afghanistan] at the time sent out an army executive order requiring one leader per platoon throughout the army to be trained in Dari,” said Fred S. Holt, a language training detachment liaison with the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center at Presidio of Monterey, Calif. “It later blossomed to include Pashto as well. We established the first course at Fort Campbell in early 2010. It’s a five days a week, 16 week course. It’s roughly about 640 hours of language training. The goal of the commander of ISAF was to have a language enabled soldier per platoon.”
Not only do the soldiers learn the language aspect, they also receive cultural training.
“The purpose of cultural training is in line with the commander of ISAF’s goals to help with the transition from combat operations to the rebuilding of the country,” Holt said. “Having that interaction between soldiers in the unit and the local populace builds the relationship; these soldiers will have those skills. There have been students that said the language training has saved their lives. We’ve started to understand the cultures in the countries we operate in, and it helps prevent unwanted incidents.”
“I feel like I have a better understanding of the culture than I’ve had before,” said Pfc. Scott R. Mills, an driver at Alpha Company, 94 Brigade Special Troops Battalion.
A classroom environment may seem mundane to many soldiers, a long way from the ranges and motor pools they are used to working in, but the Patriot soldiers realized the value of the training and have been very receptive.
“Doing Pashto and Dari for five hours a day for 16 weeks gets a little old so the motivation levels fluctuate,” Holt said. “In general these guys are really good and take it [the LTP] seriously. Their scores and grades reflect it.”
“I think it’s very beneficial; the class is good, the teachers are good, and I’m very interested in class,” said Pv2. Gary R. Hester, a rifleman with Alpha Company 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment.” I am very confident with what I learned. I have a lot of guys in my unit asking me how to say different phrases. My platoon sergeant is very good at asking me about what I’ve learned. Other soldiers have been coming to my room and looking at my books asking me how to read and write.”
“It was very beneficial and at times very entertaining,” Mills said. “I think the teachers did a fantastic job with keeping us involved in class with certain scenarios, rehearsing, and practicing. They kept us very focused on our task at hand. I feel like I’m going to get a lot of use out of this class and I would like to pursue my language training further.”
Currently, the LTP at Fort Polk is temporary, but it may be a permanent school here in the future.
“Fort Polk has been approved for a permanent Language detachment,” Holt said. “We will eventually hire a permanent site director that will be here all the time. We have LTD’s throughout the major installations throughout the world. We’re still working the issue of a permanent location.”
“I’ve spent 13 years in the army as an Arabic linguist so I understand the importance of language. It makes me very happy that the army takes language and cultural training very seriously. One of our misgivings during the beginning of the Iraq war was the lack of understanding of their culture. The army has taken huge steps to mitigate that and units like 4/10 who showed tremendous support especially from the commander and the command sergeant major, and the brigade’s [intelligence officer].”
Learning in a classroom environment is one thing; however, many students look forward to applying what they learned in the future.
“I’m very excited about what I learned and I look forward to using what I’ve learned in country one day,” Mills said. “I’m just extremely grateful for the opportunity the army has giving me to take this class. I feel very fortunate that I was chosen to be here and I’m very excited to learn more.”