News: 'Raiders' graduate language, culture training
Story by Spc. Reese Von Rogatsz
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – The first class of 113 ‘Language Enabled’ soldiers from 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, graduated in a ceremony held at the Henry H. Lind Non-Commissioned Officer Academy here, Sept. 28.
The graduating soldiers received 10 weeks of intense Pashto language instruction and Middle Eastern culture training to prepare them for serving as subject matter experts in the brigade’s upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.
“I want to congratulate all of you on your accomplishment today,” said Lt. Col. Jody Miller, 4th SBCT, 2nd Inf. Div. deputy commander, addressing the audience as guest speaker.
“But this is not the end of your journey,” he continued, explaining that the ceremony does not mean the ‘Raiders’, as the soldiers of 4th SBCT, 2nd Inf. Div. are known, have stopped the learning process.
According to Miller, the soldiers will be a combat multiplier for their units, adding deeper cultural knowledge to every operation that unit undertakes. By participating in the intensive training program, they acquired an invaluable skill set and are empowered to bridge the gap with Afghan counterparts and civilians for successful engagements.
“This is just the start of your adventure,” said Miller, facing the graduating class.
According to Mr. Pieter DeVisser, Defense Language Institute liaison to JBLM, the Foreign Language and Culture Center uses DLI materials and native-speaker instructors to accomplish its mission. The classroom is a mixed learning environment where the instructor acts as a facilitator with the goal of the training being familiarization, not full-fledged conversation.
“We have two major functions,” said Ms. Yvonne M. Pawelek, director of the JBLM Foreign Language and Culture Center.
The first mission is to provide refresher training for all military intelligence linguists who must demonstrate their proficiency annually through standardized testing. The other is to deliver, at a commander’s request, training for any unit deploying to a foreign country.
In 2005, Pawelek started the "Language Enabled Soldier" program in response to an initiative by a brigade commander who determined a need for additional linguistic assets downrange.
“This type of training had never been done before,” Pawelek said.
For the first time, she explained, general-purpose Soldiers, not military linguists, were going to learn mission-oriented language and culture corresponding to the type of work they would be doing while deployed.
‘Pashto in action’ exercises allow soldiers to practice encounters they may experience downrange such as meeting a village elder or religious leader. There are scenarios for settings such as a doctor’s office, police station, or shop when dealing with a merchant. Body language, issues of honor, the polite way of doing things and the ‘why’ of doing it that way are stressed.
“The brigade commander, [Col. Michael Getchell], very specifically requested additional cultural training for this class,” said DeVisser.
An Afghan proverb states that you can’t clap with just one hand. The tactical proficiency brigade soldiers acquired during two training exercises at Yakima Training Center, Wash. and a rotation at the National Training Center at Ft. Irwin, Calif. on the one hand has been supplemented with cultural proficiency on the other.
“I love to learn languages and I love different cultures,” said Spc. Daniel Johan Mackie, an infantryman from 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment and the training program’s honor graduate.
“I’m around a lot of languages all the time,” he added. Born and raised in Sweden, fluent in Swedish and Norwegian and with a Russian spouse, he describes it as an extremely difficult language to learn.
“I put in 100 percent effort, and I do that with everything I do.”