By KEVIN HOWE, Monterey Herald Staff Writer
The top-ranking military officer in the nation is showing his four-star flag on the Peninsula this week. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited the Defense Language Institute at the Presidio of Monterey on Monday to see how language training works in the classroom and by distance learning.
Navy Lt. Phillip McCorvey and his wife, Alie McCorvey, were among panelists presenting their experiences as DLI students. The couple are in the 10th week of a nine-month German course in preparation for Phillip McCorvey's assignment as an exchange officer with the German Navy. DLI allows spouses to attend classes when space is available, said Army Col. Sue Ann Sandusky, commandant of the school.
It's a policy that Mullen fully endorses. The armed forces are focusing on military families in its effort "to keep the best people," he said. A decision to make the military a career, Mullen added, is "a family vote, not just an individual vote." Even the effort to speak a language pays dividends, he said. "It opens doors."
The Navy's antipiracy operations off the coast of Somalia have created a demand for Somali speakers, Sandusky said. That training currently takes place in Washington, D.C., but classes in Somali will soon be offered at the Presidio.
Students in their first weeks of learning Dari and Pashto, two of the principal languages of Afghanistan, showed their stuff to Mullen. They will emerge from their 47-week course able to "read an Afghan newspaper, listen to the radio and speak in regular conversations," said their instructor, Berry Arsel. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Richard Richter demonstrated a touch-screen, interactive language video in Dari that produced the written and spoken words for objects shown on the screen. "This is the first time I've been able to speak English in two weeks," he said.
The military will continue to face a significant challenge in the conflict against terrorists, Mullen said. "I've been around terrorists all my life, and the intensity and challenge is at a higher level," he said. Terrorists who deliberately target women and children are corrupting Islam, he said, and the vast majority of Westerners and Muslims oppose them. As part of that effort, Mullen said, he expects DLI to continue to grow. "The quality is up, the technology is up, and returning students are raving about it," he said.
To see the excerpt from Adm. Mike Mullen's speech, please click here.
Mullen is also visiting the Naval Postgraduate School, where he will be inducted into the NPS Hall of Fame for distinguished alumni. Mullen is a 1985 graduate of NPS, where he earned a Master of Science degree in operations research. He is a 1991 graduate of Harvard Business School's advanced management program.
A native of Los Angeles, he was sworn in as the 17th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Oct. 1, 2007. He serves as the principal military adviser to the president, the secretary of Defense, the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council.