Thinking outside the box for your AFSC

Thinking outside the box for your AFSC

By Tammy Cario When you think of jobs that require foreign languages, air traffic controller is not usually first on that list. Especially since English is the international language of air traffic control. “English language is a little more concise than other (major) languages,” explained Air Force Tech. Sgt. Seth Norman, an air traffic controller and a Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center student in the French department. “Like in French, sometimes you have to get a little wordy when you’re trying to explain yourself. Whereas in English you can say things rather quickly, with one word meaning quite a few things. Time is of the essence in air traffic control.” Because English is the international language for air traffic controllers, training for a second language isn’t a typical job requirement. Instead, Norman found a French-speaking position through the Enlisted Quarterly Assignments List Plus, or EQUAL Plus, which is a portal where unique jobs for certain Air Force Specialty Codes are listed. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Seth Norman talks to a fellow student about the French language. Norman is an air traffic controller learning French at DLIFLC. When Norman got the call to say he was approved for the position, he thought he was headed to Paris, France. Instead, he found out his follow-on assignment is to England. “I’m okay with it,” Norman said. “I get to spend a year or so in Monterey and then off to Europe after this, so it’s perfect.” There are two French-speaking air traffic controller positions at Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris. Norman’s position at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, is a...
A new old way of learning languages

A new old way of learning languages

By Tammy Cario If you were to ask the average service member, chances are they would not equate military classes with a flexible learning system. The military, perhaps by definition, is rigid with rules and regulations. The Hebrew classroom here at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center is very different. “In Hebrew, every class will basically co-construct their own learning path with the teachers,” said Yaniv Oded, chairperson of the Hebrew department. To illustrate, he pointed out that they use only two textbooks for the classroom. Other language programs, on the other hand, can use upwards of 14 textbooks and over 30 other required books. Oded believes theirs is a very tailored and flexible system that brings success. “If the students control what they are doing, then they are more engaged. They are happier, they are less stressed,” Oded said. Sometimes being in control and engaged is all that’s needed, he added. “You cannot force commitment.” While he earned his master’s degree, the idea to open up the rigid classroom schedule came gradually from a concept called Human Performance Technology, or HPT, a concept that was developed in the 1970s. HPT is a systematic approach to improving organizational success. “The key model there is instead of analyze, design, develop,” Oded said, as it’s done in a more typical curriculum, “it’s more things like rapid prototyping.” This means they don’t have one pilot model of a teaching method. A pilot has become political, he explained. “If you do a pilot and it succeeds, it means that others need to do it, too.” Instead, they use methods he calls initiatives....
Be careful what you wish for

Be careful what you wish for

By Natela Cutter Be careful what you wish for if you’re a Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center graduate! You could easily end up catapulted into a world crisis where leaders are clinging to your every word, making crucial national security decisions based upon the information you provide them. Such is the story of three Persian Farsi language graduates who in the summer of 1978 found themselves working on one of the most historically important political turning points in the Middle East – the Iranian Revolution. “We had zero idea what we were going to do when we showed up for work…Coming out of the Persian Farsi program [at DLIFLC] we thought we knew it all, but — we knew nothing,” said Michael Ruhm, to large a group of multi-service Persian Farsi linguists. Along with his two former classmates, Donald Huntington and Michael Sherman, and former boss Thomas Chesno, Ruhm visited the Persian Farsi School Feb. 21, at the Presidio of Monterey, as part of an alumni reunion, incidentally coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution. “We went from knowing nothing…to the White House situation room calling and saying, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ And we had to fall back on what we learned in Monterey,” Ruhm explained, remembering that he had received an urgent call at 7 a.m. to come to work after a long night out on the town. The political situation in Iran spiraled out of control and a religious revolutionary anti-Western group, led by Shia clerk Ayatollah Khomeini, overthrew the 2,500 year-old monarchy. With growing distrust toward the U.S., in November 1979 the American...
Three generations at DLIFLC help make history

Three generations at DLIFLC help make history

By Tammy Cario It’s not often you can say you attended school with your future father-in-law. When Pete Weldon attended the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language center to study Korean in 1957, he began dating Marcia Houston, only to discover her father, William Houston, was also at DLIFLC, studying Chinese Mandarin. “With her dad being in the same company and being a master sergeant, not only did I have to ask his permission (to get married) but I had to ask the commanding officer’s permission,” recalled Weldon with a laugh. Houston, who died in 2009, was a photographer in the Army during World War II. In an interview with the Monitor in 1979, Houston explained that it was Gen. Douglas MacArthur who told him he should go into military intelligence. “So I did!” he told the Monitor. Weldon, meanwhile, graduated from DLIFLC and went on to have a 22-year career with the military that wove in and out of DLIFLC. It included being a career adviser for students at DLIFLC. “Everybody knew who I was,” said Weldon. “When you’re the career adviser…you find friends you never knew you had.” His Korean language led him to, among other things, three tours in Korea and one in Japan. During Weldon’s tour in Japan in 1969, he was monitoring the channels when he caught a distress signal broadcast by a Navy ship sailing in international waters. It was being attacked by the North Koreans. “We turned every station on to that AM signal,” Weldon said. “I spent all night up with that one.” As it turned out, that signal was from the...
One man’s journey to freedom in the United States

One man’s journey to freedom in the United States

By Tammy Cario The words inscribed at the feet of Lady Liberty, “”Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…,” might well have been written with someone like Waseem Abdo in mind. He, along with 24 other applicants, officially became citizens of the United States in a naturalization ceremony held at the Presidio of Monterey March 7. “Honestly, I feel like I have never been a citizen of any country,” Abdo said from his office at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center where he works as an Arabic language instructor. Abdo escaped from Syria in 2011 after being persecuted by the government and experiencing detention and threats to his life. Despite growing up in such a beautiful part of the world, a lot of the regime’s ideals didn’t mesh up with what he inherently believed. “I’ve always been passionate about freedom and freedom of expression. Back in the day when I tried to do journalism in Syria, I had a lot of difficulty expressing myself because we lived under a dictatorship for a long time,” he said. Expressing himself led to harassment by the government, especially when he worked as a media advisor for the American Embassy in Syria. “You can’t keep a secret in Syria, so everyone knew about it,” Abdo said. “I got arrested twice for the sole reason of my position at the Embassy. I was tortured.” Thanks to the ambassador at the time who intervened, Abdo was released. “It wasn’t a good idea [for me to stay] because I knew as soon as the Embassy shut down, they would...
New barracks on Presidio of Monterey dedicated to fallen Marine

New barracks on Presidio of Monterey dedicated to fallen Marine

Story by Joseph Kumzak, Presidio of Monterey Public Affairs PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. — The Marine Corps Detachment hosted a memorialization ceremony March 1 to dedicate its new barracks to a fallen Marine and Defense Language Institute alumnus. The Presidio is lined with buildings dedicated to distinguished individuals in recognition for their courage, heroism and selfless service — such as Taylor Hall, Rasmussen Hall and Nakamura Hall. Pyeatt Barracks is Presidio’s newest building dedicated to Marine Sgt. Lucas Pyeatt who was killed in action Feb. 5, 2011 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. “For the next few decades every Marine that comes through DLI will live in this barracks. And every day when they come and go, they will walk past that plaque and see Sgt. Pyeatt’s picture and citation and be reminded of what he did … hopefully that inspires Marines for years to come,” said Lt. Col. Jason Schermerhorn, Marine Corps Detachment commander. Pyeatt studied Russian at DLI June 2008 – June 2009, then graduated the Russian Cryptologic program Sept. 11, 2009. Upon graduation, he was assigned to the II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He was on his first deployment in Afghanistan for only two weeks when he volunteered for the mission that cost his life. “I know I can’t go on every patrol, but I need to go on the first one so I know what my Marines are going through,” he told a fellow Marine as they prepared for the mission. Pyeatt was posthumously awarded the National Intelligence Medal for Valor. Former director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper presented the award...
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