News: 1st ANGLICO Marines prepare to converse with ANA
Story by Sgt. Marcy Sanchez
Marines with Assault Charlie, 2nd Brigade Platoon, 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, are learning Dari as part of a six-week long pre-deployment training evolution that concludes April 14.
1st ANGLICO will embed into Afghan National Army units and communicate with the local population as part of their mission to coordinate naval gunfire and close-air support to coalition forces.
Photographs project on a white board in front of the 20 students. The Marines describe the images in front of them in a language, which only four weeks ago, was as foreign as the culture in which they will be living in for the cycle of their deployment.
Dari is one of the language courses given by the Marine Corps’ Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning, a command that equips Marines with the essential regional, cultural, and language skills that enable them to effectively operate in any region of the world.
The Marines are learning an advanced form of Dari in order to communicate with the Afghan army and the local population, said Lance Cpl. Dylan F. Bodkin, a fire support man with Assault Charlie. Since Dari is similar to Farsi, the Marines will be able to communicate with people from Persian countries as well.
“Every Marine is required to have at least 16 hours of Afghan culture training prior to deployment,” said David Harlan, the CAOCL liaison to I MEF. “The Marines of 1st ANGLICO are taking an advanced course of Dari and adding three weeks of sustainment enhancement.”
According to the CIA’s website, 50 percent of the Afghan population speaks Dari, while 35 percent of the population speaks Pashto. The most common language in Helmand province where most Marines are located is Pashto.
“What we’ve been informed is that most of the ANA speak Dari,” Bodkin said. “Most Pashtu speakers also understand Dari, but not all Dari speakers understand Pashtu.”
The course 1st ANGLICO is taking is concentrated on giving them enhanced conversation capability since they will be living amongst ANA soldiers for the cycle of their deployment, said Harlan. The beginner, intermediate, and advanced courses all concentrate on tactical communication.
The class began with the basics, such as “hello” and “get down,” then built up to bigger phrases that would build rapport with the local population.
“It’s a moderate-pace course, and so far we’ve been learning 20 to 40 words a day,” said Cpl. Benjamin M. Finch, a fire support man with Assault Charlie. “We review those words the next day and learn another short list.”
The Marines were not limited to textbook learning. They were also given scenarios and opportunities to practice what they learned in the classroom.
“Once a week we go to a language lab and get access to computers where we work with voice recognition software and do flash cards,” said Finch, 22, from Bowie, Md. “We also get to interact with our instructor in Dari for a short period each day.”
As the class continued, the Marines became comfortable with what they were learning, and the primary language spoken in the room shifted from English to Dari.
The Marines are also learning about the Afghan culture from their instructor whom was raised in Afghanistan.
“For about an hour each day we talk about the culture of Afghanistan,” Finch said. “It’s kind of a variation of culture, history and how people are interacting today. The instructor will talk about the history of Afghanistan, the Soviet occupation and life growing up during that time frame.”
Bodkin, 20, from Silver Spring, Md., understands the cultural differences between Afghans and Americans and believes the Afghan mindset may be different from those of western civilization.
“Some of the students might not be getting the language portion of the class, but they’re able to understand the culture,” Finch said. “So when we’re talking to them there’s not as much of a culture barrier.”
With only three weeks of training under their belt, the Marines are educated enough in Dari and the Afghan culture to speak with and understand an Afghan.
“If you communicate with someone from another country in their language, it builds respect,” Bodkin said.