Cultural and Linguistic Skills Acquisition for Special Forces

Brill

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An interesting paper that applies to all linguists in USASFC.

https://jsou.socom.mil/JSOU Publications/11-6_Final.PDF

Preface
Imagine yourself as a Special Forces group commander, and your group’s
regional alignment has just been changed. While not entirely useless,
the cultural knowledge and foreign language acumen your personnel have
acquired and retained have now become much less relevant. The invaluable
personal bonds and friendships made during multiple deployments to familiar
areas of operation are gone with a stroke of a pen. If the change in alignment
were to be gradual, with a little time to learn new languages and cultures,
you might be able to plan a phased training and education program, but
this is not the case; the change is effective almost immediately. If the change
had occurred during peacetime and your main concerns were conducting
exercises, joint combined exchange training (JCETs), or military training
team (MTT) events, you could probably find enough people qualified in the
linguistic and cultural basics to get by. However, this change occurs in the
midst of two conflicts, and your group will be engaging in combat.
So, what do you do now, Colonel?
 

Marauder06

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WTF, a Group's regional alignment happens like a bolt out of the blue? Does that really happen? It would seem to me that if a change that drastic were to occur unexpectedly and in the middle of two wars, the decision to do so would have been precipitated from some kind of major catastrophe, which may be of larger concern.
 

surgicalcric

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Sounds like what happens with several of the NG SF BNs every couple of years. Hell, I took French in the SFQC, then learned Spanish on my first deployment to Colombia, and am now in a 6 month Pashtu class because our DTA changed from 3rd to 5th Group.

What would I do if I were the Group CDR - other than firing everyone in a leadership position in 20th Group HHC and from the -2 shop up in 1st BN... But I digress...

This is specific to NG SF though my AD Brethren share many of the same issues...

This is where I would start, with more to follow.

  • Work with the USASFC/USASOC Commander(s) on a plan to keep the ODAs as gainfully employed as they (may not) want to be on JCETs, MTTs, MLE/SFLE, and "other" missions so the guys can immerse themselves in their languages and the cultures that embody them. (Little is more frustrating to an SF guy than to never use a language he has spent time learning, especially when he has had to do it away from his family.)
  • To support this I would continue to tap into the USSOCOM CLP to allocate more funds for language courses and cultural training designed to bring guys to a 2/2 on their newly assigned language and give them the tools they need to be successful in a UWE (without the use of terps). The OPI and/or DLPT will be administered at the conclusion of the course(s) and will be mandatory thereafter on a yearly basis.*
  • Team Guys and certain enablers (SOT-As specifically) in a realigned BN, who were previously assigned a CAT-1/2 language, would retake DLAB and languages assigned according to the needs of the Battalion and the guy's ability to learn another language - we know not everyone can learn a CAT-3/4 language.
  • Implement a "Use of Interpreters"** course to assist in deployments in "other" AORs.
Those who don't find language important can take "another walk" or be assigned to the needs of the Army. SF is full of guys who believe 5.56 and 7.62 is all they need to speak and honestly they ALL need to go away.

*Individuals whose do not take the DLPT/OPI will be flagged against attendance for any advanced schools (CDQC, SFSC, MFF, MERLIN, etc...) until such time they test. Individuals whose test scores are worse on follow-on tests will receive NC/OERs reflecting such and will continue to be flagged until they raise their score. (These flags will not include language training or UW centric exercises/training.)

**Using Interpreters takes some practice, finesse and tact. Not everything is as simple as, "stay here and watch this corner" and guys need to understand how to best utilize them.
 

Crusader74

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Can an SF guy be transfered to another Group and therefor have to learn the regional language?
 

CDG

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Sounds like what happens with several of the NG SF BNs every couple of years. Hell, I took French in the SFQC, then learned Spanish on my first deployment to Colombia, and am now in a 6 month Pashtu class because our DTA changed from 3rd to 5th Group.

What would I do if I were the Group CDR - other than firing everyone in a leadership position in 20th Group HHC and from the -2 shop up in 1st BN... But I digress...

This is specific to NG SF though my AD Brethren share many of the same issues...

This is where I would start, with more to follow.

  • Work with the USASFC/USASOC Commander(s) on a plan to keep the ODAs as gainfully employed as they (may not) want to be on JCETs, MTTs, MLE/SFLE, and "other" missions so the guys can immerse themselves in their languages and the cultures that embody them. (Little is more frustrating to an SF guy than to never use a language he has spent time learning, especially when he has had to do it away from his family.)
  • To support this I would continue to tap into the USSOCOM CLP to allocate more funds for language courses and cultural training designed to bring guys to a 2/2 on their newly assigned language and give them the tools they need to be successful in a UWE (without the use of terps). The OPI and/or DLPT will be administered at the conclusion of the course(s) and will be mandatory thereafter on a yearly basis.*
  • Team Guys and certain enablers (SOT-As specifically) in a realigned BN, who were previously assigned a CAT-1/2 language, would retake DLAB and languages assigned according to the needs of the Battalion and the guy's ability to learn another language - we know not everyone can learn a CAT-3/4 language.
  • Implement a "Use of Interpreters"** course to assist in deployments in "other" AORs.
Those who don't find language important can take "another walk" or be assigned to the needs of the Army. SF is full of guys who believe 5.56 and 7.62 is all they need to speak and honestly they ALL need to go away.


*Individuals whose do not take the DLPT/OPI will be flagged against attendance for any advanced schools (CDQC, SFSC, MFF, MERLIN, etc...) until such time they test. Individuals whose test scores are worse on follow-on tests will receive NC/OERs reflecting such and will continue to be flagged until they raise their score. (These flags will not include language training or UW centric exercises/training.)

**Using Interpreters takes some practice, finesse and tact. Not everything is as simple as, "stay here and watch this corner" and guys need to understand how to best utilize them.

With things 'slowing down' now, do you see any part of this scenario being enacted by anybody? Maybe not all of USASFC, but at least a Group or two?
 

surgicalcric

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With things 'slowing down' now, do you see any part of this scenario being enacted by anybody? Maybe not all of USASFC, but at least a Group or two?

You need to expound on your questions for me to answer them. What scenario are you referring to, my plan or the AOR/language change? Group or two what?
 

Brill

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Sounds like what happens with several of the NG SF BNs every couple of years. Hell, I took French in the SFQC, then learned Spanish on my first deployment to Colombia, and am now in a 6 month Pashtu class because our DTA changed from 3rd to 5th Group.

Team Guys and certain enablers (SOT-As specifically) in a realigned BN, who were previously assigned a CAT-1/2 language, would retake DLAB and languages assigned according to the needs of the Battalion and the guy's ability to learn another language - we know not everyone can learn a CAT-3/4 language.

We got word that we're DTA'd to 3rd at drill. Perhaps others knew but it was a surprise to most of us. A 35M and I are the only RU speakers in MID.

You'd be surprised how many guys do NOT want to cross-train.
 

AWP

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You'd be surprised how many guys do NOT want to cross-train.

Well, if you need to cut 8 brigades, start with those guys.

I can't for the life of me fathom a "No, I won't crosstrain" mentality. While you can water yourself down, jack-of-all-trades style, if done properly you're bringing more to the table for the unit.
 

CDG

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You need to expound on your questions for me to answer them. What scenario are you referring to, my plan or the AOR/language change? Group or two what?

I am referring to your scenario. Do you see it as a possibility that USASFC, or if not them at least individual Groups, will start penalizing guys for not maintaining language capability to certain standards?
 

Brill

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I am referring to your scenario. Do you see it as a possibility that USASFC, or if not them at least individual Groups, will start penalizing guys for not maintaining language capability to certain standards?

I cannot speak for the SF guys but an enabler who cannot or will not attempt to speak the target language is a liability to the team. We need guys who WANT to make a difference by language proficiency (we're min 2/2), technical proficiency, and PT/tactical proficiency. All that AND a red hat. F'ing suh-weet! :thumbsup:
 

surgicalcric

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I am referring to your scenario. Do you see it as a possibility that USASFC, or if not them at least individual Groups, will start penalizing guys for not maintaining language capability to certain standards?

I doubt it will be implemented Regiment wide, though it should be. WRT that, I have written several NCOERs, after having conducted initial and periodic counseling, that reflected the lack of language skills of the individual, in the "Competency" block. Being competent in your language is as important a part of being an SF soldier as any number of other tasks SF soldiers must master/be proficient at.

SF is supposed to be the premier UW professionals in the military. It is time we started living up to that...

And with respect to the OP and my reply, it is what I would do if I were "King for a day."

OMMV.

Crip
 

MilkTruckCoPilot

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I cannot speak for the SF guys but an enabler who cannot or will not attempt to speak the target language is a liability to the team. We need guys who WANT to make a difference by language proficiency (we're min 2/2), technical proficiency, and PT/tactical proficiency. All that AND a red hat. F'ing suh-weet! :thumbsup:


Speaking from my end, we have guys who want to remain proficient but there are no opportunities (refresher training ect). There's only so much listening to radiocanada and reading articles from Le Monde can do for you.
 

TB1077

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Looking at the current situation, I can see how this has become a problem. What does someone from 7th Group who speaks Spanish very well do when deployed to A-Stan? Seeing that all groups end up deployed outside of their AO during a war, how does everyone get up to speed in different languages? Do you see it being a pre-deployment training to go through language school for the current language? Is 4 months too much time to prepare for a deployment combined with any normal pre-deployment activity?

I assume that whenever going into war the first group in would be the one from that AO, followed by/supported by the NG group that also covers that area. That seems to allow for the opportunity to take on a new language for the groups that are next in line to deploy. Is this totally unreasonable?
 

surgicalcric

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...What does someone from 7th Group who speaks Spanish very well do when deployed to A-Stan?

Mexican restaurants during happy hour provide plenty opportunity for guys to practice Spanish. Guys in language school would go to happy hour to practice listening to and watching TV at the bar. I was jealous as there isn't a French restaurant in Fayetteville. Now that I speak Spanish as well I take every opportunity to have salsa/chips and a few Dos Equis Ambers as time is available.



I assume that whenever going into war the first group in would be the one from that AO, followed by/supported by the NG group that also covers that area. That seems to allow for the opportunity to take on a new language for the groups that are next in line to deploy. Is this totally unreasonable?

No, it is very reasonable and it has been suggested to the USASFC CDR that the NG SF BNs work closer with the AD Groups but there seems to be some AD vs NG bickering that is preventing a more well thought out plan.

Honestly speaking, USASFC didnt and still doesnt have a good plan for rotations of ODAs through OEF-A. But that is a topic for another time...
 

HOLLiS

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^^^ also this is the day of a small world. One can get a Edith Piaf CD, go online to a language forum to help maintain most language. With out maintenanc, the vocabulary shrinks, then the grammar. Dos Equis, la cervasa mas fina.
 

moobob

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Send people to DLI. Blahblahblah deployments this deployments that.
 

TB1077

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Send people to DLI. Blahblahblah deployments this deployments that.

I don't quite understand what you were referring to in regards to the deployments. Are you saying that deployments to a different area of operation should not impact language capabilities?
 
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