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Language and culture training top priority for U.S Army
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. - Today’s military is embracing language and culture training more than ever, and DLIFLC has always been at the forefront of that effort.

Over the years, DLIFLC has expanded its capabilities by establishing Language Training Detachments (LTD) throughout the United States and abroad in addition to the training done in Monterey, Calif.

The Army’s Combined Arms Center (CAC) in Fort Leavenworth, Kan. oversees leadership development and professional military education for the Army.

CAC’s Culture and Foreign Language Advisor, Sameh R. Youssef, stresses the importance of language and culture training. “We have seen that without understanding the people across from you, you’re never going to achieve what you’re trying to achieve, but the more you understand them, the more you come closer to them; to their mindset, is going to make my life and our life easier in the long run, and make the war change from a war to a relationship,” said Youssef.

The Command and General Staff College (CGSC), which falls under CAC at Leavenworth, incorporated language training in 2006 as a requirement for officers deploying in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) at the behest of Gen. David H. Petraeus, who then commanded CAC.

“The program started in January of 2006, and it really started with our Commandant and Deputy Commandant discussing and making a decision that we needed to expose our officers to culture and a language, particularly in support of OIF and OEF,” said Marvin Nickels, Deputy Director of CGSC. Nickels jokes that he incurred the task to implement the program when he unknowingly answered the phone in the Department of Command and Leadership, and was directed to spearhead the effort that he was able to put together and implement in just under four months.

“We briefed the deputy commandant on our idea in January and implemented it with support from DLI (to include) electives that began on the second of May,” Said Nickels, who emphasized how quickly the program was stood up.

Originally, instructors came from DLIFLC to teach Modern Standard Arabic and Pashto, which later changed to Arabic Iraqi and Dari. As the program evolved, more languages and full-time instructors were added forming a LTD that is now able to offer language training to all the officers attending CGSC year round. Richard Coon, the DLIFLC Program Manager at Fort Leavenworth, says he has seen a steady 50 percent in the number of students taking foreign language while attending CGSC.

“I got here in March of 2008 and we looked to expand the program beyond just the required, the mandatory predeployment language training, and begin what we termed the strategic language program, which was offering electives, language electives for officers…who had an interest in other languages,” said Coon.

The school currently has five resident language instructors teaching Arabic, Dari, French, Chinese, and Spanish. The language instruction is culturally-based and focuses on conversation to prepare officers to interact with people in the countries to which they will be deployed.

“They are looking to understand some of the nuances, and how they would interact with the people that they’ll encounter as they try to learn their language. And that’s something that the students have been very positive about. It’s really helped them to see the interrelationship between language and culture; that you really can’t have one without the other,” said Coon.

By Lt. Scott Ghiringhelli

Strategic Communications

Caption: Marvin Nickels (R), deputy director of the Command and General Staff College, talks with Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center language manager Rich Coon, at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

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