Language training detachments prepare units for Afghanistan

| March 26, 2010 | 0 Comments

C. Todd Lopez
Army News Service

Pilot program strives for at least one Dari language-enabled leader in each platoonPilot program strives for at least one Dari language-enabled leader in each platoon

WASHINGTON — Soldiers at Fort Campbell, Ky., and Fort Carson, Colo., are now taking language courses that will better prepare them to meet the demands of operations in Afghanistan.

Since Feb. 1, more than 70 Soldiers at Fort Campbell have studied either Dari or Pashto in advance of their upcoming deployments to Afghanistan. At Fort Carson, 270 Soldiers began learning Dari, March 8. It’s expected some 70 Soldiers will begin Dari instruction in early April at Fort Drum, N.Y.

Some 600 Soldiers are expected to attend language classes like this one at Fort Campbell, Ky., by the end of Fiscal Year 2010. The Army plans to add more such courses in order to meet the requirements put forth by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan, to put more “language-enabled” Soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan. (Courtesy Photo)The three installations now host “Campaign Continuity Language Training Detachments.” The detachments are the result of a partnership between the operational Army and the Defense Language Institute.

The pilot program is a direct response to requirements put forth by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan, to put more “language-enabled” Soldiers on the ground there.

“His goal is to have one leader in every platoon or platoon-sized element that will interact with the Afghan population who is familiar enough with the Dari language to go beyond the ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ and platitudes — but to, instead, have rudimentary conversations,” said Lt. Col. Stephen Maranian, executive officer for the Army training directorate, G-3/5/7.

The three detachments were built with funding from the Joint Staff, from the overseas contingency operations budget. Maranian said money is allocated already for fiscal years 2011-2015 to expand the program to more installations.

Right now the DLI detachments are staffed with native-language speaking DLI contractors as the instructors, and Department of the Army civilians as local program managers.

The language-training capability won’t be exclusive to just the Army either, he said, but will be available to other services.

The first iteration of the course at Fort Carson lasts seven weeks, because when the first day of class kicked off there, students didn’t have as much time to train before their deployment. But the second iteration of classes there, along with the classes being taught now at Fort Campbell, and the classes to be taught at Fort Drum, are 16 weeks long.

Maranian said 16 weeks is based on data that suggests students — who take a course structured like the CCLTD — can achieve results in that amount of time, which will meet the theater commander’s needs.
“We’re comfortable that, at that duration, with chain of command emphasis and student commitment, we’re going to get a really good product,” he said.

McChrystal asked, in a November 2009 memorandum, that each “platoon, or like-sized organization,” which will have regular contact with the population of Afghanistan, should have “at least one leader that speaks Dari at least 0+ level, with a goal of level 1 in oral communications.”

Most students in the past who have taken a 16-week language course ended up with a “0+/0+” level of language capability — a rating that refers both to speaking and listening capability — but many have achieved the higher 1/1 goal.

Clare Bugary, the director of operations at DLI, said the 16-week course will meet the 0+ requirement set by McChrystal, but for Soldiers to exceed that and achieve the goal of a level 1 skill, they will need to push themselves.

“The key is motivation,” she said. “If they want it, they can get there, and what we are seeing at Carson and Campbell now is a motivated group of Soldiers who are applying themselves.”

Bugary said to guarantee higher levels of language proficiency, students will need to spend more time in class. The DLI’s normal Pashto-basic course is 64 weeks long, for instance.

“There’s no way the Army can send everybody through that,” she said.

Category: Army News Service, News

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