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 January 8, 2010

Mobilization

Soldiers learn language, culture before being deployed

Story & Photos by Tom Michele, Eagle Systems & Services

Spc. Marlesh Mbory elicits strange responses from Soldiers training at Fort McCoy to deploy to Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.

Mbory, a U.S. Army Soldier, teaches as many as 100 students in his hour-long language class. He starts with the sounds first and gets the student Soldiers to repeat them. And again and again.

PHOTO: Soldiers from the 105th Engineer Forward Support Company repeat phrases in Dari, the primary language of Afghanistan, during a cultural-awareness language class at Fort McCoy.
Soldiers from the 105th Engineer Forward Support Company repeat phrases in Dari, the primary language of Afghanistan, during a cultural-awareness language class at Fort McCoy.

Mbory is a linguist, translator and cultural awareness trainer with the 1st of the 340th Training Support Battalion, 181st Infantry Brigade, the mobilization trainers at Fort McCoy. Students are given a list of 15 phrases common to everyday usage between U.S. Soldiers and Iraqi or Afghan civilians. Next to each is the Iraqi or Afghan transliteration. Soldiers also receive phrase booklets with about 100 more translations.

Mbory leads the class back and forth with the phrases, in English, then the south central Asian translation.

“This class is important to the mobilizing Soldier because that Soldier will immediately use those phrases in theater, while dealing with local people,” Mbory said. “Those local people are very happy when they see U.S. Soldiers learning their language and culture.”

Mbory was born in Sudan and fled to the Congo at age 17 to escape the civil war in his native land. Speaking Arabic was natural for him. He came to the United States in 2003 and joined the U.S. Army in 2007 and became a U.S. citizen while serving on active duty in Iraq.

PHOTO: Spc. Marlesh Mbory (left), a linguist-interpreter, leads a large class  of 105th Engineer Forward Support Company Soldiers in a cultural-awareness language class at Fort McCoy.
Spc. Marlesh Mbory (left), a linguist-interpreter, leads a large class of 105th Engineer Forward Support Company Soldiers in a cultural-awareness language class at Fort McCoy.

“When I was in Iraq, my speaking Arabic helped a lot to build a strong relationship with and bridge a gap between Coalition Forces and Iraqi military and civilians,” Mbory said. “We help Soldiers become familiar with and better feel the language and culture of the country they are going to. Then they are making great history for the country they are in and also for the United States. Our Soldiers are helping to free Iraq and Afghanistan, just like the United States did with Germany, Italy and Japan after World War II.”

“Winning war is easy compared to winning peace,” Mbory said. “Learning, knowing and using a foreign language, talking and listening directly to the people in those other lands will lead to living in peace with each other.”

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