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 June 25, 2010

Mobilization

Language training supports Soldiers’ missions

By 1st LT. Jeffrey E. Gruidl, 181st Infantry Brigade Public Affairs

FORT MCCOY, Wis. — When someone thinks of a location to replicate Iraq or Afghan culture, Fort McCoy might not be the first place that would come to mind.

Thanks to Soldiers of the 1st, 340th Training Support Battalion, civilian contracted foreign language speakers (FLS) and cultural role players (CRP) managed by the 2nd, 411th Logistical Support Battalion, Soldiers deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan are getting realistic cultural training here.

PHOTO: Soldiers from the 724th Engineer Battalion engage with “local Iraqi leaders” to discuss security concerns during a training mission at Fort McCoy as part of their pre-deployment training to Iraq. Photo by Master Sgt. Timothy Grandy
Soldiers from the 724th Engineer Battalion engage with “local Iraqi leaders” to discuss security concerns during a training mission at Fort McCoy as part of their pre-deployment training to Iraq. Photo by Master Sgt. Timothy Grandy

Soldiers of the 1st, 340th work with mobilizing Soldiers providing them with training on local language, phrases, culture, customs, geography, religion, gender roles and interaction with the local population.

Sgt. Mouhsine Doufkir, an Army Linguist with the 1st, 340th who is fluent in English and Arabic said, “Understanding cultural norms and customs is vital to our mission and helps Soldiers avoid potentially embarrassing situations.”

Classroom understanding is only one part of the training provided. During the first day of the mobilizing unit’s situational training exercise, 1st, 340th linguists are in the field putting Soldiers to the test by forcing them to apply what they have learned.

Doufkir said, “It’s important to see how the Soldiers react to real-world situations and help them understand the importance of proper words and gestures.”

Providing additional real-world situational training is the job of the FLS and CRP trainers. Their expertise in simulating Iraqi and Afghan nationals adds an amount of realism to the training that is unique to their background and experience.

The CRPs are people hired locally from the Tomah and Sparta areas who role-play Iraq and Afghanistan national citizens.
They act out a variety of training scenarios that include being friendly villagers, hostile villagers, farmers, prisoners of war for detainee operations, and local police.

Many of the CRPs have been doing this job for years and have become well versed in Iraqi and Afghan customs and traditions. Additionally, they have acquired an understanding and ability to speak various dialects of the Arabic language, which improves their ability to act the part of Iraqi or Afghan citizens and gives Soldiers a more-realistic training experience.

Many of the FLSs originally are from Iraq or Afghanistan and many have prior experience at other mobilization sites throughout the United States. Their background provides Soldiers with great insight into customs and cultures. FLS trainers work alongside the CRPs, but, because they are fluent in multiple languages, they are the ones who speak to the training Soldiers. This allows FLS trainers to analyze the Soldiers’ reactions to them, their actions and their statements, and provide feedback to the observer-controller-trainers on site. The training event where the FLSs provide the biggest asset is during the units culminating training exercise (CTE).

During the CTE, the FLSs ride in convoys and act as interpreters, which in Iraq or Afghanistan would help Soldiers understand what to expect when they are out on a mission. They also act as interpreters in local villages or that of a village elder or councilman. To aid in training, the FLSs know the training mission and observe actions of the Soldiers in the vehicle.

Soldiers receive enhanced training by having an FLS as a village elder because, unlike many real-world situations, they understand what the English-speaking Soldiers are saying. The FLS also can have an impact on getting Soldiers to understand how to use the services of an interpreter and how to converse with the local populace.

(Master Sgt. Timothy Grandy contributed to this article.)

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