Since January, 64 paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team have spent their days learning to read, write and speak basic Dari, the most common language among the people of Afghanistan, and delving into the culture and history of the country.
The Army has taught the same 16-week course at Fort Drum in New York, Fort Polk in Louisiana and Fort Campbell in Kentucky. Marine Corps base Camp Lejeune will graduate its first class this summer from a 52-week course in Dari, Pashtu and Urdu, two other languages of the region.
The proliferation of the language courses suggests the military expects to be in Afghanistan for a long while to come, and reflects the current policy of cultivating relationships among the Afghan people and incorporating them in the fight against the Taliban.
The reason for moving towards the language training is the same reason why all of us decide to pick up another language whether it be for work or pleasure – we are limited by our inabilty to understand that other language. Soldiers stepped up after a 12-month deployment and let it be know that their inability to communicate with soldiers and security forces they hoped to train really put a damper on what they could accomplish.
The 4th BCT returned in September from a 12-month deployment to the country. Its soldiers say they were frequently limited by their inability to communicate with the soldiers and security forces they were trying to train, and the villagers from whom they were seeking information.
Sgt. Bradley Oliff was one of those who jumped at the chance to take the first course offered at Fort Bragg by the Defense Language Institute of Monterey, Calif.
Oliff, a medic, said that during his time in Afghanistan he relied on “a lot of hand gestures, a lot of guessing and a lot of calling for the interpreter and hoping he’s around.”
Oliff added that “Unless you could see the injury, sometimes there just wasn’t anything you could do without an interpreter,” he said. “Now, I could ask them, ‘Do you need help?’ I could actually have a conversation.”
The Military continues to ramp up their language training programs and it seems everyone can benefit.What do you think?
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