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06/18/2012
Arabic linguists put their skills to work in Oman
PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. – Four Soldiers from the 300th Military Intelligence Brigade (Linguist) provided direct Arabic language support during a U.S. Army Central Command-sponsored field training exercise in Oman Jan. 17 to Feb. 4, 2012.  

The multinational exercise was intended to strengthen military and diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Oman and promote regional stability, by mentoring members of the Omani military forces in conducting combat operations designed to confront terrorism and irregular threats.

“The relationships being built are critical to our country because of the importance of this region, and Soldiers on both sides will remember this for a lifetime,” said Utah National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 4 Gary Callister, the Arabic linguist manager for the 300th MI Brigade.

Callister and three other DLIFLC graduates traveled to Oman for the exercise along with members of the Oregon National Guard’s 1st Squadron, 82nd Cavalry Regiment, and a platoon from the 125th Forward Support Company, 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery Regiment, from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

The linguists were put right to work, translating between U.S. Soldiers and the Royal Army of Oman’s 11th Brigade, Western Frontier Regiment, during three days of briefings and meet-and-greet events.

“A lot of the Omani officers spoke English, but if they didn’t feel comfortable enough, they wanted to have an American interpreter,” said Arabic linguist Sgt. Tyler Jiles.

Each linguist was assigned to a platoon for the duration of the event and they turned it into a learning exercise by meeting each night to share key words they had learned. This helped each of them as their platoons rotated through the different stations, which included light infantry tactics, combat medical procedures, operational planning, and military leadership.  

In the beginning, many of the U.S. service members did not understand the capabilities of the DLIFLC-trained linguists, and they would start by saying, “Hey, linguist, … get over here.”

Jiles explained that the troops would “just spout off a whole five-minute long conversation with no regards to … whether you’re going to be able to translate it, and then, even if you could mentally translate everything, you wouldn’t have the time to do it.”

“Once they realized what our capabilities were, and saw how good we were with the material we had, and our abilities to be able to work and bridge that gap, they really appreciated us,”  said Jiles, adding that it only took a couple of days for the U.S. troops to come to this realization.  

The hardest thing Jiles had to do during the mission was to describe every single part and the steps for clearing a Mk19 grenade launcher, all on the fly. Even though he didn’t necessarily learn those terms at DLIFLC, he was able to successfully accomplish the task. “You use your vocab that you do have and you go around it,” Jiles explained.

In addition to the challenging training, the Soldiers enjoyed days where they shared meals, participated in sporting events, and learned about culture with the Omanis. By the end of the training, Omani and U.S. Soldiers frequently commented on the mutual respect and comfort level that developed. The U.S. Soldiers were impressed with how interested the Omanis were to learn, and the Omanis were happy to see the interest the U.S. Soldiers had in their culture.

Staff Sgt. David Reynolds of Troop A, 1st Squadron, 82nd Cavalry Regiment, said it was the first time in his 23 years of military experience that he had been able to train with a foreign national army. He said it is great to learn about their culture and military tactics.

Maj. Scot Caughran, the U.S. task force commander for the event, said the experience is one he will never forget. “We have improved as a unit and now have an increased respect for Omani culture,” he said.

Callister wrapped up the training with the observation that the 300th MI Brigade linguists helped shape key relationships to a greater degree of effectiveness than would have otherwise been possible without their assistance.


Story and photos by

Story by: Sgt.  1st Class Rebecca Doucette, Strategic Communications; Spc. Cory Grogan contributed to this report
Photos by: Spc. Cory Grogan, Oregon National Guard Public Affairs

Photo 1: Chief Warrant Officer Four Gary Callister, Arabic linguist manager for the 300th Military Intelligence Brigade (Linguist), shares a traditional Omani breakfast after introductions for a collaborative, knowledge-sharing field training exercise at the Rubkut Training Range in Oman Jan. 21, 2012. Callister was joined by leaders from the 1st Squadron, 82nd Cavalry Regiment, Oregon National Guard and the Royal Army of Oman, including British Foreign Service officer Capt. Nicholas Le Crerar (red beret), a training officer for the Omani army. (U.S. Army photo)

Photo 2: Staff Sgt. Jon Paul Steenbakkers, an Arabic linguist with the 341st MI Battalion, Washington National Guard, translates instructions on operating a .50-caliber machine gun to a soldier from the Royal Army of Oman's 11th Brigade, Western Frontier Regiment, at the Rubkut Training Range in Oman Jan. 21, 2012 during the first day of a two-week training exercise sponsored by U.S. Army Central. The Oregon National Guard's 1st Squadron, 82nd Cavalry Regiment based in Bend, Ore., and a platoon from the 125th Forward Support Company, 1st Battalion, 194th Field Artillery Regiment from Joint Base Lewis McCord, Wash., joined Omani soldiers to share knowledge and build diplomatic relations. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Cory Grogan)

Photo 3: Sgt Tyler Jiles, Arabic linguist with the 300th Military Intelligence Brigade (Linguist), shares a traditional Omani breakfast after introductions for a collaborative, knowledge-sharing field training exercise at the Rubkut Training Range in Oman Jan. 21, 2012. Jiles was joined by Soldiers from the 1st Squadron, 82nd Cavalry Regiment, Oregon National Guard and the Royal Army of Oman. (U.S. Army photo)
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