Former Portuguese language graduate of the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, Lt. Gen. Kenneth P. Keen, Military Deputy Commander of U.S. Southern Command, visited the Institute Feb. 24. While at the Presidio of Monterey, Keen observed Spanish and Portuguese language classes.
"A tremendous amount has changed; the most apparent is the technology they use today. I think that it obviously enables learning quicker. The students are much smarter than I certainly was, and I think the experiences that I see, in particular with officers coming here, (knowledge) is much broader than what I had," said Keen, commenting about his use of an audio-cassette tape recorder and flash cards when he was a student.
"Our military overall appreciates what this Institution provides from a cultural training aspect, obviously as well as the language aspect. I think the awareness of our military, and the Army in particular, (in terms of) what this Institute provides to our servicemen and women and our missions that we are doing around the world, is much greater today than when I was a student in 1977," he said.
Keen was in charge of U.S. forces in Haiti shortly after the earthquake struck Jan. 12, 2010. Realizing that language was a crucial skill needed in order to facilitate relief, Keen was able to have 500 U.S. forces with Haitian-Creole language skills reassigned to the relief effort. One language-enabled servicemember was assigned per platoon, which was an "incredible benefit" and contributed to the success of the SOUTHCOM operation, said Keen.
DLIFLC provided more than 65,000 Language Survival Kits (LSK) to SOUTHCOM for servicemembers use during the relief effort in Haiti. LSKs are pocket-sized booklets with useful phrases and vocabulary, accompanied by audio CDs, and cover up to 12 different topics, ranging from Civil Affairs to medical terminology. LSKs are available in more than 60 languages.
To see the video interview with Lt. Gen. Keen please click here.
Text and Photos
Natela Cutter, Strategic Communications