Ready for anything, ready for anywhere


running up that hill
Jan 3, 2007
in Wonderland, with my Alice

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (USASOC News Service, March 21, 2011) - Army special-operations soldiers conduct complex, high-risk missions around the world. Working in small teams in remote areas, these men and women must work with foreign forces and civilians in order to accomplish their mission and get home safely. They aren’t just strong; they’re smart.

Which is why at SWCS you’ll find future special-operations soldiers sitting in classrooms that, at first glance, might be for kindergartners. Hanging from wall to wall are bright posters filled with cartoons and extra-large text listing the days of the week and the colors of the rainbow.

One key difference: these posters aren’t written in English, but in any one of 17 core languages taught to members of the special-operations community: Spanish, French, Indonesian, Chinese, Russian, Thai, Tagalog, Korean, Dari, Pashto, Arabic, Persian-Farsi, Urdu, Polish, Turkish, Czech or Hungarian.

“To these soldiers, language is a survival tool,” said Maqbool Hassain, a Pashto instructor. “Without knowing the language, it’s like walking blinding in the dark. To be language-blind, so to speak, is a great handicap. Language and cultural understanding is like adding eye-glasses to sharpen the scope to the situations they will face.”

Last year, more than 2,000 Civil Affairs, Military Information Support Operations and Special Forces soldiers of various ranks studied a specified region’s language and culture at SWCS during their qualification course training.

Early into each of the three branches’ qualification courses, each soldier must spend 18-24 weeks in language training, depending on the difficulty of their assigned region. This training is coordinated by SWCS’ Directorate of Regional Studies and Education.

The knowledge and understanding of how to deal with different cultures could save lives, said Hakim Rahimi, a Dari, Pashto and Persian instructor.

“This ability to speak formally and informally with a broad range of vocabulary builds Soldiers’ ability to communicate with anyone, from improvised rural villagers to high ranking leaders,” he said.

“In four months, we’ve gone from speaking our names to expressing ideas clearly,” said Sgt. Anthony Hernandez, a French student.

By combining language and cultural training, students learn to communicate within the context of a region’s customs and traditions. Language and regional studies education at SWCS focuses on socio-linguistic and cultural competency.

“We’re going to a country in our operational specialty to communicate with people; that’s what we’re here for. That’s what’s most important in my mind, the ability to easily interact with people that speak it as a first language,” said Sgt. Eric Tomaz, one of Hernandez’s classmates.

“These language courses are not simple lessons in sentence structure and punctuation,” said Michelle Vit, a French instructor. “They learn family structures and culture nuances to make it possible to relate and be efficient with problem-solving.”
That's awesome. When I first enlisted I was trying to get into an MOS where I could use Mandarin on a regular basis, but the recruiter told me I couldn't get clearance of any kind because my wife wasn't a citizen. Found out later that isn't entirely accurate...damnit lol.