Improved Marine Corps Language Training

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 11 months ago

From Marine Corps Times:

Marines at Camp Lejeune, N.C. and Camp Pendleton, Calif., now have the option of pursuing intermediate and advanced language study before deploying to Afghanistan.

The bases recently added two new courses in Pashto and Dari which are Afghanistan’s main languages. The new courses were added in answer to demand from operational forces, most now working to tame Helmand province in the country’s south.

The basic language course is unchanged. Marines will still complete about 40 hours of live instruction and 100 hours of computer-based self-study which will help them master about 50 words and phrases.

But motivated Marines who have a knack for languages can now boost their communication skills with intermediate and advanced options.

The intermediate course will emphasize two-way communication teaching Marines how to ask questions and interpret basic answers. This will help them gather intelligence by understanding descriptions of colors, clothing and vehicles; and how to discuss locations and directions. Through intermediate study, Marines will learn about 200 words and phrases. The whole evolution takes about 80 hours of live instruction and 72 hours of self-study.

The advanced course will help Marines expand their vocabulary to 600 words and phrases through 160 hours of live instruction and 72 hours of self study. By the courses end, they should be able to communicate mission-specific information.

The classes aren’t designed to make marines fluent, but they will provide them with the ability to interact with village elders, farmers or children with a better understanding of their culture and more words and phrases to work with, said George Dallas, director of the Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

The courses, detailed in Marine administrative message 652/10, will be available through 2014. Participation is at a unit commander’s discretion.

If I was commanding officer it would certainly be my “discretion” to have as many Marines trained as deeply as possible in the indigenous language before deployment.

While I have derided the many civil affairs projects implemented with no security, thus wasting time and money, and while I have certainly been a proponent of force projection in all phases of a counterinsurgency campaign, this is one area where I have focused my advocacy.  I can’t think of a greater skill to take to Afghanistan than an understanding of the language.  Language training is right up there in importance beside skill in weapon use, fire and maneuver tactics and having good logistics.  After all, we are trying to find and kill an enemy who hides among the indigenous population.

This is a good development.  More is needed.




You are currently reading "Improved Marine Corps Language Training", entry #5829 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Language in COIN and was published December 5th, 2010 by Herschel Smith.

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